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Nutrition 101: Why Sleep Is Holding Back Your Weight Loss

Nutrition 101: Why Sleep Is Holding Back Your Weight Loss

Oftentimes in my nutrition consultations you will hear me ask about sleep and make that a BIG focus if a client isn’t getting enough and more importantly, quality sleep.

Most clients leave wanting more to help with weight loss, but here’s the thing, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body will be fighting against your weight loss goals. 

Here’s why:

Research shows that not getting enough sleep will decrease your overall immune system and really mess with the important hormones that regulate your habits and weight. Let’s dive into 3 of the most important ones. 

Cortisol: Many studies have shown an increase in cortisol levels after an individual doesn’t get the proper amount of sleep. This is a commonly known fact but if it is not, when you aren’t getting enough sleep, that stress hormone or cortisol, spikes! Think of this hormone as your “fight or flight” during stressful times. When cortisol is high, our body’s blood sugar rises as a way to get ready for potential harm. While in our modern day life there are less external stressors that need this spike in blood glucose, our body cannot distinguish different types of stress. To the body, stress is stress. When we have more cortisol, our body becomes less sensitive to insulin while our body releases more glucose. This, overtime, leads to increased hunger, cravings, and weight gain. 

Ghrelin: This is a unique hormone released mostly from our stomach. This is what we call the “hunger hormone” as it increases your appetite. This hormone sends a signal to your brain saying you are hungry and it is dramatically increased during sleep deprivation. Meaning, when you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body produces more ghrelin making you feel more hungry. This leads to leaning on more “comfort” foods and overeating. 

Leptin: Leptin is released from our fat tissues and this one is a little more tricky. Leptin is the hormone that signals to your brain that you are full. When you aren’t getting enough sleep your body releases less leptin, meaning you will feel LESS satisfied. While there is a correlation of increased leptin with increased fat stores, studies have found that obese individuals become leptin resistant, meaning, those individuals are less satisfied even after eating a complete meal. Add in a lack of proper sleep and this leads to over consumption and weight gain or difficulties losing weight.

So, how many hours should we be sleeping and how can I start getting better sleep?

We should aim to get 7+ hours of quality sleep every night. This is an integral aspect of your health and wellness journey. 

To get better sleep, consider a new sleep routine such as: going to bed at the same time every night, removing lights an hour before bedtime, winding down by reading/stretching/meditating/journaling, refrain from eating large meals or sugary snacks before bed, and try waking up the same time every morning. 

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