How Sleep Affects Your Weight (and Tips to Improve Sleep)

Sleep not only affects your energy level, mood and immune system, but getting a good night’s sleep can contribute to having a healthy weight. Sleep is often underestimated in promoting improved overall health and wellness. There are many benefits to getting quality sleep.

When you sleep well and feel rested, you are more likely to exercise. Not only does exercising burn more calories but it also increases muscle tissue which burns more calories than body fat. Let’s face it, would you want to get up earlier than necessary to get a workout in if you’re tired? If you do, you are more likely to hurt yourself because you are not fully present. Sleeping well through the night gives you more energy to exercise, and the workout will also be more effective.

When you get quality sleep, your hunger hormones are balanced. Your hunger hormones are regulated when you are sleeping. These hormones determine when you are hungry and when you are full. If you lack sleep, these hormones can become out of balance and can affect your appetite, contributing to possible weight gain.

When you are tired, your brain craves high-fat, high-carb foods. Your body is made to protect itself. When you are feeling tired, your body tends to crave foods that give you instant energy, like foods high in sugar and carbs. Foods and drinks high in refined sugars (such as candy, cake, cookies, sodas) give you a quick surge of energy, but then you ‘crash’ and your energy level drops again. High-fat, high-carbs and sugary foods and drinks are loaded with calories and cause quick weight gain. When you sleep well, you tend to eat more balanced meals.

When you lack sleep, your stress level increases. When your stress level rises, your body makes more cortisol (also called the ‘stress hormone’). Cortisol settles in your abdominal area and can contribute to weight gain. Stress can also trigger emotional eating, which is when you eat because of feelings (or stress) and not because you are physically hungry. Effective ways to reduce stress are to exercise, eat healthy foods (like fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains), practice deep breathing or meditation, and get restful sleep.

Tips to Improve Sleep:

  • Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. This includes your days off from work.
  • Give yourself at least 30-60 minutes to wind down before bedtime (this includes avoiding a lot of stimulation, like loud noises/music/TV shows, bright lights).
  • Keep your bedroom a work-free room, avoiding anything other than sleeping in the bedroom (and don’t keep your computer, TV, vacuum cleaner or work desk in your bedroom).
  • Keep your bedroom dark, and a cool and comfortable temperature.
  • Avoid any caffeine, sugar or alcohol in the afternoon and evening.
  • Avoid exercising 1-2 hours before bedtime unless it is relaxing, like stretching or deep breathing.
  • Use relaxation tapes or white noise to help you fall asleep.
  • Avoid heavy eating before bedtime as it can lead to heartburn and indigestion and disrupt your sleep.
  • Avoid drinking a lot of fluids before bedtime as this can disrupt sleep if have to use the bathroom more frequently.

Practicing good sleep hygiene can help you feel more rested and energized throughout the day, and often promotes a better mood and stronger immune system. Be good to yourself and make good quality sleep a priority.

Cindy Saleeby Goulding, MS, LPC, NCC, CPT, CWC

Author of “Healthy Weight: It’s a Family Affair”

Categories: Healthy Families Expert Advice