Sleep and Weight Loss

Are you getting enough "Vitamin S"?

If you are the average American woman you're busy. Career, kids, house, bills. And like most American women, you may also be trying to get healthy and lose weight. Maybe you’ve been eating clean and killing it at the gym, all while maintaining your normal crazy work and family schedule. 

You are "burning the candle at both ends".

Frustration is mounting because the results aren’t coming. You feel exhausted and run down. You seem to be constantly yelling at your kids and irritated with your significant other. Your carb and sugar cravings are insane, and it’s like you can’t turn your hunger OFF! You’re doing everything right but you still feel like crap and your weight isn’t budging!

Something is catching up to you and it might just be a lack of "vitamin S"…also known as SLEEP.

Sleep is an exceptionally important topic that doesn’t get enough emphasis in the fitness community. In fact, I’d put the importance of sleep on the same level as nutrition, with workouts coming in last. The only things more important than nutrition and catching enough ZZZ’s are oxygen and water.

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep is critical for the regulation of hormones that regulate our metabolism. Studies have clearly linked sleep loss with weight gain.

Nearly 50% of Americans are sleep-deprived. Insufficient sleep is proven to contribute to depression, skin aging, weight gain, and lack of concentration and performance. This is makes sense, right? We all know that adults need roughly 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep every night to function WELL.

If you’re willing to geek out for a moment, it's helpful to understand the physiology of WHY your body will hold onto fat when you don’t get enough sleep:

  • When you lose sleep, your brain’s frontal activity is reduced. The frontal region of your brain governs impulse control. Dulled impulse control = bad decisions = you’re eating a 3 lb. slab of cheesecake at midnight.
  • The two main hormones that regulate hunger are called leptin and grehlin. Leptin is the hormone that signals your brain that you are full, while grehlin (the little gremlin) signals that you’re hungry. In a cruel twist, when you lose sleep, your body produces more grehlin and less leptin! That means you’re MORE HUNGRY, and when you do eat, LESS SATISFIED.
  • Sleep loss up-regulates another hormone: cortisol. When cortisol stays too high for too long, it signals your body to conserve energy…in other words, you store extra fat, especially around your midsection. The body can be exceptionally stubborn about releasing this fat.
  • A recent study showed that a single night of poor sleep can affect your body’s ability to process insulin. Insulin (ANOTHER hormone) tells your fat cells to open up for storage. If your body cannot process insulin, it continues to circulate, which leads to slower metabolism and more fat storage.

So here’s your sleep loss/fat gain equation:

Poor sleep = low impulse control + increased hunger + decreased feelings of fullness + down-regulated metabolism + body in a state of energy conservation

And There You Have The Perfect Storm For Gaining Weight!

Sort of depressing, right? 

Most of us admit that sleep often takes a backseat to all of the other things we need to get done in a day, including exercise and eating right. The reality is that if we want to improve health and happiness, and if weight loss is a goal, DO NOT IGNORE THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP!

Let’s turn this negative into a positive and focus on HOW you can start getting a better night’s sleep TONIGHT! Here are my favorite tips for getting plenty of Vitamin S:

  • Place more personal value on sleep. YOU have to make it a priority. No one can force you to go to bed when you should, and no one can force you to make changes to your evening routine to foster better sleep…only you can do that by making the commitment.
  • Get more natural light during the day. Our circadian rhythms depend on light. Spend time outside, especially in the morning. This will help to regulate your sleep/wake hormones.
  • Download blue light blockers onto all of your electronic devices. Blue light from computers, tablets, and phones trick your brain into thinking it’s high noon! Most blue light blocking apps are FREE. If you use your devices after dark (and I KNOW you do), you’ve got no excuse for skipping this step in the name of better sleep!
  • Be ready for bed. I get myself ready for bed – brush teeth, wash face, contacts out – right after dinner. This way, as soon as I start to feel tired while relaxing on the couch, I can go straight to bed. If I have to make too many stops on the way to the bedroom, I’m wide awake again!
  • Go to bed at the right time and go to bed at the same time every night. Studies show we get our best sleep between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM. Try to get to bed by 10:00 PM every night.
  • Sleep in total darkness. Get blackout curtains, dim or cover your alarm clock, and toss your night light. You will get the best sleep ever!
  • Sleep in a cool room. Studies show that people sleep best in rooms that are between 65 and 70 degrees F.
  • Reduce consumption of caffeine and alcohol. Try not to drink or eat foods with caffeine after noon, and go easy on the alcohol at night. Both substances disrupt sleep.

Sleep is important for brain health and general well-being and is a master metabolic regulator. If you’ve been doing everything right but still feel like you struggle with fatigue, cravings, and weight gain, sleep could be the missing link!

Here's a challenge: for the next four weeks, make sleep a top priority in your life. Pick three of the sleep tips above and put them into action every night. You’ll start sleeping better, feeling better, and you may even release some of that extra weight you’ve been carrying around!


Thank you!