Exploring the connection between sleep and weight gain: If you told me 5 yrs ago I’d struggle to sleep straight through the night at some point in my life, I’d have said it’s impossible. Once upon a time, I could sleep 10 straight hours a night without waking to pee. Sleep was my thing, I slept all the time, day and night. I loved and still love sleeping. Now at 53yrs old, 10 straight hours of sleep feels like a lifetime ago. Menopausal hot flushes, night sweats and the resulting muscular aches have robbed me of the joys of uninterrupted sleep.
Why does how much sleep we’re getting matter?
Sleep plays a huge part in keeping our body healthy. There’s a lot that goes on within our bodies when we sleep, a lot more than we realise. Which means, we should make getting enough sleep an essential part of living like eating and exercising. We should be paying more attention because, sleep deprivation can kill. As a person advances into midlife, their body starts to deteriorate. Getting only 4-5 hrs sleep nightly can accelerate that deterioration. The good news is, you can improve your sleep quality.
Though sleep deprivation affects the body in different ways, this blog is about the connection between sleep deprivation and weight gain. I will be exploring how sleep and weight gain are connected. The reason why I’m writing this is to get you to pay more attention to what’s going inside your body.
How sleep loss and high blood sugar are connected
Studies have found high rates of T2 diabetes in people who get less than 6 hrs sleep a night.
According to Mathew Walker, a leading sleep expert and Professor of Neuroscience at Berkeley, sleep deprivation drives blood sugar levels sky high. A series of large epidemiological experiments conducted on healthy adults with no health issues revealed a link between high blood sugar readings and sleep deprivation. Adults were asked to limit their sleep to 4 hrs a night for 6 days. They were tested on the 7th day and their bodies showed up to be 40% less effective at absorbing a dose of glucose compared to when they got a full nights sleep. According to Prof Walker, these blood sugar readings put the participants in the pre-diabetic stage.
After being deprived of sleep for a week, scientists discovered that, the cells of the participants of that experiment became unresponsive to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. When insulin doesn’t work, blood sugar can’t be lowered to a safe level. Sugar flooded the systems of the participants in just 6 days and tipped them into a pre-diabetic state. According to Professor Walker (who has been researching sleep for over 20yrs), chronic sleep deprivation is now one of the major contributing factors of developing T2 Diabetes.
How sleep loss and weight gain are connected
A sleep deprived body will cry famine in the midst of plenty. – Dr Eva Van Cauter
The human body is a complex web of systems that depend on each other for life. Different hormones regulate our behaviour and physiology. The hormones Leptin and Ghrelin regulate appetite. Leptin is a hormone crucial to appetite and weight control. Leptin (found in fat cells and the small intestine) sends signals to your brain to tell you when you’re full and Ghrelin (found in the stomach) tells you when you’re hungry. When Leptin is high, you feel full and when Ghrelin is high, you feel like eating. Both hormones need to be balanced to prevent weight gain.
Studies have found that, Leptin and Ghrelin become imbalanced after just one night of insufficient sleep. The result is, you’ll feel more hungry than if you had a full nights rest. When you’re sleep deprived, your ability to control your appetite is compromised because Leptin decreases and Ghrelin increases. When these hormones aren’t working in sync, you’re at risk of giving in to these hunger signals. Experiments conducted on healthy individuals reveal they eat 300-1000 more calories when sleep deprived.
When sleep deprived, the part of the brain responsible for controlled decisions shuts down. When there’s a breakdown in communication between your brain and stomach, you crave high calorific salty, sugary and carb rich foods.
A sleep deprived body can lose more lean body mass than fat
It is important to retain as much muscle mass as possible when on a weight loss program. This is because, your muscle is your fat burning incinerator. When you lose lean muscle, fat goes in it’s place. Another experiment conducted on two groups of people on a weight loss plan revealed that, the group who slept for just 5.5 hrs a night lost less fat. Their bodies just didn’t want to deplete its fat stores.
There you go! Though weight loss is still about balancing energy in and energy out, you’re going to struggle to find balance if your hormones aren’t working properly. Get more sleep to lose weight!
I’ve created a comprehensive coaching course to help make your weight loss/improved health journey less painful. This course is packed full of activities to help you better grasp the intricacies of losing weight and keeping it off. To further support you on your journey, you get 6 one to one online coaching sessions with me to keep you focused and accountable. Every two weeks, we’ll review your progress to keep you on track.
If you’re serious about making great health strides in 2023, send me a message to email@example.com or click this link to commit in 3 flexible instalments https://buy.stripe.com/dR6cQKdbq048eWsdRm.
Jumper: Cos 🔸 Vest: Marks & Spencer 🔹 Jeans: Zara 🔸 Bag: Muberry 🔹 Scarf: Dubai Market 🔸 Reference: Why We Sleep, Mathew Walker