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Does sleep affect weight loss?

01/07/2021

Now more than ever, sleep is becoming a major factor in our overall health and wellness and you may have asked yourself does sleep affect weight gain/loss? Sleep and nutrition have a 2-way relationship, where the quality of sleep can impact our hunger cues and what we eat. The other way around is also true because what we eat can influence how well we sleep.  Because of this strong relationship, sleep can also play an important role when it comes to weight loss.

We all know good quality sleep is important, but how exactly does it benefit our health?

  1. Gives our brain a chance to flush out toxins that accumulate throughout the day and make us tired and less focused. This can only be done while you’re asleep (1).
  2. Reduces stress levels, which in turn reduce levels of stress hormones that can impact your weight loss (2).
  3. Protects us from developing all types of chronic diseases like types 2 diabetes and heart disease (3).

How does sleep affect weight based on sleep duration?

Sleep requirements are different depending on your age. Generally, sleep duration should reduce with age. Babies can sleep up to 16 hours per day and children about 10 hours per night. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night to maximise the health benefits!

It may be a surprise to you that variations in hormones can alter our food choices and a restful night’s sleep is important for balancing these hormones and therefore a vital part of successful weight management! But how does sleep affect weight based on our hormones you may ask?

If you’re not getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night you may be hindering your ability to lose weight! Studies have shown that short sleep duration… even for just 2 nights in a row can increase our hunger hormone (ghrelin) and decrease our satiety hormone (leptin), which leads to overeating (4). Basically, this results in you eating much more after a night or two of bad sleep because you feel hungrier and need more food to satisfy that hunger.

Not only do we overeat because of this imbalance of hormones, but the research is showing we also don’t make the best food choices when our body is in this state of sleep deprivation! We are more likely to snack and eat energy-dense, high-carb, and foods high in saturated fat. This can cause weight gain and also long-term can have other implications on our overall health.

How does sleep affect weight loss when it comes to my DNA?

Would you have ever thought that your genes can influence how long you sleep? It’s fascinating! The gene that regulates our circadian rhythm (our sleep-wake cycle) is called the CLOCK gene! This gene is found in our brain and creates the CLOCK protein that accumulates during the day. While we’re sleeping at night, the quantity of CLOCK protein in our brain decreases, until there is no more left and we wake up!

People who have the CC or TC variant of the CLOCK gene are at a higher risk of having a shorter sleep duration (5). This can help explain to some people why they’ve never been able to sleep for long periods of time and in turn can impact their ability to lose weight.

So, what can you do to improve your sleep quality?

  1. Reduce screen time
    Turning off the TV and putting our phones away at least one hour before  bed reduces our exposure to blue light. This will allow more melatonin production which will make you sleepy.
  2. Invest in blue light blocking glasses
    Wearing these a few hours before bed will block out lots of the blue light from your devices and lights. They can also reduce eye strain when working with screens. Click here to find out more.
  3. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages 8-10 hours before bed
    Caffeine makes us feel alert by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Drinking caffeinated beverages later in the day such as coffee, tea and matcha will enhance this alert feeling and prevent us falling alseep.
  4. Have some wind-down time before bed.
    Blocking off the end of the day to relax away from work or stressful conversations can massively help you feel more ready for bed. This makes falling asleep much easier.

So, does sleep affect weight loss? Yes it absolutely does and is the foundation for successful weight management! If there is one thing you should be prioritising, it should be your sleep – even if it is for general health and wellbeing. This is the first step to Eating The DNA Way – prime your body.

References:

(1)      Eugene, A. R., & Masiak, J. (2015). The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep. MEDtube science, 3(1), 35–40.

(2)      Hirotsu, C., Tufik, S., & Andersen, M. L. (2015). Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep science (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 8(3), 143–152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.slsci.2015.09.002

(3)      Hublin C, Partinen M, Koskenvuo M, Kaprio J. Sleep and mortality: a population-based 22-year follow-up study. Sleep. 2007 Oct 1;30(10):1245-53.

(4)      St-Onge M-P, Roberts AL, Chen J, Kelleman M, O’Keeffe M, RoyChoudhury A, Jones PJ. Short sleep duration increases energy intakes but does not change energy expenditure in normal-weight individuals. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;94:410–6.

(5)      Allebrandt KV, Teder-Laving M, Akyol M, Pichler I, Müller-Myhsok B, Pramstaller P, Merrow M et al. CLOCK gene variants associate with sleep duration in two independent populations. Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Jun 1;67(11):1040-7.

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