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Dozing Your Way to Weight Loss: The Surprising Link Between Sleep Quality and Weight Loss

As a women’s health coach, I always educate my clients on the importance of getting enough high-quality sleep. But why is sleep so critical? Did you know that your muscles are not built in the gym? Rather, they are constructed when you sleep. During exercise, muscles are broken down via small micro-tears, which are then repaired during sleep, resulting in larger and stronger muscles.

The benefits of sleep go way beyond muscle repair it is also essential for metabolic and hormonal regulation. To give an example when our bodies do not get adequate sleep they tend to produce higher levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and lower levels of leptin (our satiety hormone). This can lead to overeating throughout the day due to increased hunger and cravings making it very difficult to stick to your plan. As for metabolic effects when we don’t get adequate sleep our bodies are less efficient in metabolizing carbs which can create insulin resistance over time and we can develop type 2 diabetes. This has a secondary impact as well creating an increase in weight gain since sleep deprivation leads to decreased efficiency in burning calories.

The study I am reviewing in this post assessed the effects of sleep deprivation on eating habits, metabolic rate, and hormonal regulation and how these components impact weight loss results. Let’s get right into this study!

Sleep Duration, Quality & Weight Loss

In more than half of the studies reviewed both a better sleep quality and a longer sleep duration were associated with more successful weight loss results. One study compared the impact of sleep on weight loss in groups of women in the overweight and obese BMI range. One group got >7 hours of sleep per night and the other got <7 hours of sleep per night. Both of these groups followed a diet plan, completed physical activity, and were taught sleep modifications. A third group was brought in as a control and only followed a diet plan alone. This study found that the group with better sleep quality & quantity had a 33% increase in weight loss success compared to the other groups.

Another study found that inadequate sleep resulted in alterations in appetite control (lower leptin levels, increased ghrelin levels), a decrease in insulin sensitivity, and increases in cortisol levels. All metabolic changes promote poor health outcomes as well as an increase in weight.

While some studies show that better sleep quality and longer sleep duration are related to improved weight loss, others found that weight loss itself contributed to better sleep. One study observed that women who achieved a weight loss of 5% or more (through healthy eating and physical activity) reported improved sleep, fewer sleep disturbances, as well as less pain, and fewer blood pressure problems. So we can see how weight loss, overall health, and sleep are related.

The final study I am going to highlight in this section emphasizes the importance of sleep during a period of reduced calorie intake aka dieting. Insufficient sleep hinders the effectiveness of dieting for weight loss by reducing the metabolic rate, decreasing the amount of weight lost in the form of fat, and increasing the loss of fat-free mass (aka muscle). Now I found this study particularly interesting because in my last dieting phase, I made sleep a #1 priority. I had a sleep routine, I monitored my sleep quality using technology, and I made sure I was getting a minimum of 8 hours every night. This was by far my best dieting phase. I was able to get the leanest I have ever been while keeping energy levels moderately high for a dieting phase. So sleep quality and quantity have an even bigger impact on fat loss and muscle sparing during a dieting phase.

Sleep & Dietary Intake

This review identified both sleep duration and quality impact dietary intake. One study observed a daily increase in calories (1200-2500) in those who restricted sleep. Another study observed increased snacking, specifically in higher carbohydrate snacks, when participants slept less than 8.5 hours per night for 3 weeks.

The relationship between sleep and weight management seems to be bi-directional. As one affects the other the same goes both ways. So if you are someone who is not seeing the results you want on your weight loss journey or having a difficult time keeping the weight off. It’s time to assess your sleep hygiene.

How to Use This Information

First, aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Naturally, the female body is more complicated, we tend to need more on the upper end of this range with about 8-9 hours of sleep being our sweet spot. As women, we experience more hormonal fluctuations, increased sleep disturbances, and more difficulty managing our weight than our male counterparts.

Before, making any drastic changes I recommend tracking your sleep to get an idea of your starting point, and I mean more than just looking at a clock before you go to bed and when you get up. A long sleep duration does not equate to high sleep quality. Therefore I use both an OURA ring (more affordable options) to track my sleep and my Apple Watch. Both of these devices will tell you your sleep duration but also the quality of your sleep. This will be critical for identifying trends over time to see what factors impact your seel most.

A Guide for a Good Night’s Sleep

  • Power Down the Electronics: At least 1 hour before going to bed shut down electronics, and use dimmer/ warmer lights. No phones or TVs in bed.

  • Create a Good Sleep Environment: One that makes you feel safe, cozy and cues the melatonin release. Everyone is different but typically a cool environment, that is quiet (or the help of a white noise machine), and dark (no sleeping with the TV on).

  • Put the Brakes On Work: Stop working a few hours before bed to allow yourself to wind down and get those work gear to stop turning.

  • Limit Intake Before Bed: Have your last meal 2 hours before bed. Sometimes digestion can impact sleep quality so for some if this is the case try not to eat too close to bed.

  • Create a Routine: For me it's putting on my PJs after a hot shower, washing my face, grabbing a good book, meditating, and winding down for the night. But don't be afraid to experiment and find what works for you!

That’s all for today. I hope this gave you a little insight into how many factors impact weight loss and overall health not just diet and exercise. If you liked today’s blog post please like and share with family and friends and be sure to subscribe for a new post next week!

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Thanks for reading!



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