In Health & Wellness, Life

This Is How Poor Sleep Quality And Belly Fat Are Linked

Studies report short sleep duration as a predictor of obesity in adults. These studies reveal that your belly fat and the quality of your sleep are connected.

As a Healthy Lifestyle Coach, my mission is to help as many people as I possibly can make the connection between the habits that prevent them from achieving their health goals. Most people aren’t happy about abdominal fat. Almost everyone would love to have flatter abs. Once you know what is causing you to retain abdominal fat, you can reduce it. My Get Rid Of Stubborn Belly Fat Masterclasses are designed to help people connect all the elements that should be in place for a flatter tummy. There are many causes of abdominal distension and one cause is connected to poor sleep quality.

What is poor sleep quality?

According to the Sleep Foundation, poor sleep quality is: Less that 7-9 hours sleep, Inability to fall asleep within 30mins of getting in bed, Irregular sleep schedules (common with shift work), Broken sleep patterns, Waking up more than once a night for long periods, Waking up too early.

Let’s take a look at what happens inside our body when we’re not getting enough sleep. 

The human body is a complex web of systems that depend on each other for life. These systems are the Integumentary System, Muscular-skeletal System, Nervous System, Endocrine System, Cardiovascular System, Lymphatic System, Respiratory System, Digestive System, Urinary System, and Reproductive System. All theses systems are connected and work together in conjunction with each other to ensure our survival. 

The endocrine system is responsible for controlling and coordinating the body’s homeostasis (state of equilibrium). It uses hormones to control and coordinate the body’s internal metabolism, reproduction, growth and development. As well as the body’s response to injury, stress, and environmental factors. Hormones regulate our behaviour and physiology.

When something is out of whack with one system, the body’s stable homeostasis state gets disrupted. This results in an unstable internal body environment. Inadequate sleep causes an unstable internal environment. Over time this can lead to dangerous consequences.

How is poor sleep and belly fat connected?

A study published by the US National Institute of Health to test the hypothesis that sleep duration and body fat stores are connected revealed that, “Leptin levels were significantly greater in people with poor sleep quality than in normal sleep quality people”.

What is Leptin? Leptin is the hormone responsible for appetite, weight control and the regulation of energy expenditure. It is often referred to as the ‘anti starvation’ hormone or satiety hormone. It plays a key role in the development of obesity because it helps us maintain our weight.

High leptin levels can cause a lack of Leptin sensitivity and this leads to Leptin resistance. When your body is resistant to leptin, you’ll struggle to control your appetite. Studies show that poor sleep is connected to Leptin resistance.

Leptin resistance is connected to increased body fat, specifically visceral (abdominal) body fat.

According to the NIH, “sleep modulates neuroendocrine function and glucose metabolism. Inadequate sleep is related to metabolic abnormalities such as decreased glucose tolerance and altered appetite regulating hormone, which in turn increases the risk of weight gain and obesity”. 

Poor sleep quality is related to greater visceral fat (abdominal fat) but not total fat”. Studies show that people gain weight SPECIFICALLY around the abdominal region due to the lack of insulin sensitivity and leptin resistance. This starts a vicious cycle of hunger, eating and weight gain. 

In addition, adipose tissue (fat cells) is inflammatory. An excess of adipose causes an increased release of inflammatory substances that go on to affect other cells in the body. Inflammation is connected to wide range of diseases diseases including CVD, Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and some cancers. 

Let’s take a look at what a lot of people do when they’re not sleeping within regular sleep hours.

How many people stay up at night guzzling water?  The human body craves something sweet or starchy at night. As a result, we don’t usually reach for healthy stuff.

Your body stores away the extra calories it consumes as fat. Fat is an energy source, your body will store away what is doesn’t need for a time when it will need it. Seeing as nowadays jobs are largely sedentary, we don’t need to store fat in case of famine. Therefore, stored excess fat is detrimental to health. It wasn’t so in the days of our ancestors who hunted and gathered their own food. They ate as much as they could when there was much food and fat stores sustained them when there was little. There was a balance. Fast forward to 2021…. all you need to do is click a button and food gets delivered to your door. Increased availability of food, easy access to food and zero energy expended to obtain it.

Eating when we should be sleeping can take us over our daily calorie allowance.

Overtime, this excess consumption turns to fat. Constantly storing away excess body fat leads to obesity. The more fat the higher the levels of the hormone Leptin. Leptin is a hormone stored in and released from our fat cells. Excess body fat means high levels of Leptin in the body, this can lead to a resistance to it’s hormonal function.

Let’s do the maths.

When I wake up earlier than what’s normal for me, there’s the possibility of having 1 cup more than my usual morning cup of tea. If I should then stay up too late at night, there’s the possibility of another cup of tea with snacks like some biscuits, nuts, plantain chips or chocolate. I like my tea with honey and milk, that would total somewhere between 250 – 500 extra calories. Calories I wouldn’t have consumed if I was asleep during those hours. If I add the top figure together over 7 days. That’s half a kilo of weight added to my weight by the end of the week. If I continue that pattern and make it a habit, how many extra kilos would I put on after a few months? Calculate.

In addition, because I’m not getting adequate sleep, my energy levels might be lower. The energy I need to burn off the extra calories I’m consuming is not there. I would be eating more and expending the same or less energy. According to the NIH, “a meta-analysis revealed that each reduction of 1 hour of sleep per day was associated with an increase in BMI by 0.35 per year. 

Health Coach

The human body repairs, recharges, renews and refreshes when asleep. If your body’s cells aren’t able to adequately repair, renew and recharge, your immune system gets weakened. Over time, you become susceptible to sickness. 

In conclusion, when trying to lose your belly fat, if the quality of your sleep is poor as described by the Sleep Foundation, it could hinder your efforts. Aside from your body storing toxic belly fat, constant lack of adequate sleep can cause other health issues.


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Some useful articles:

How To Determine Poor Quality Sleep 

The Role of Leptin in Human Physiology: Emerging Clinical Applications

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