Sleep has often been an overlooked tool in weight management. Things are slowly starting to shift, with sleep becoming more recognized as a key factor in our appetite, weight, and metabolism.
Why is sleep so important?
1. It impacts our appetite and can be linked to over-eating.
Sleep influences two important hormones in weight management – leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is sometimes referred to as the fullness hormone. It is leptin that prompts us to know we are full. Leptin is elevated during sleep. If we are not sleeping adequately then we might not be producing leptin as effectively as if sleep were optimal. This leads to a reduced ability to feel full when eating.
Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. It prompts us to feel hunger. Those who are not getting enough sleep have been shown to have elevated levels of ghrelin, and lower levels of leptin. What that translates to is a higher appetite as you will feel hungrier all the time, and not experiencing as much fullness. This can lead to overeating, and larger portion sizes, therefore weight gain.
Getting an adequate amount of sleep can help to regulate these hormones so that your appetite is more appropriate to your needs.
2. It can reduce our stress levels and support hormone balance.
During sleep, our body can get to work on regulating hormone levels. The less sleep you get, the less efficiently your body can process hormones.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is regulated by sleep. When we wake up, cortisol levels are typically raised to help us feel awake and alert. Poor sleep can lead to elevated cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol levels impact sleep negatively and have other negative impacts on the body, contributing to increased insulin, pressure on the adrenals and thyroid, and systemic inflammation. Adequate amounts of sleep can support healthy insulin sensitivity. This can all impact our hormones.
It's all great to be informed of these things, but what can we do about it and how can we improve our sleep?
We can create healthier sleep hygiene in our lives by:
1. Establishing a consistent bedtime and wake up time.
2. No electronics for 1-2 hours before bedtime.
Electronics can reduce our melatonin production due to the blue light. Limiting screen time for 1 -2 hours prior to bedtime can promote appropriate melatonin production and helps us to feel ready for sleep
3. Avoid caffeine for 4 or more hours before bed.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can keep us awake if we consume it too close to bedtime. Caffeine can be found in coffee, some tea's, some fizzy drinks, and chocolate.
4. Avoid alcohol for 4 or more hours before bed.
Many people think alcohol helps them to sleep. However, it can negatively impact your sleep quality.
Take some time to get honest about your sleep hygiene and evaluate if there are ways you can create healthier sleep habits to support your goals. And remember to practice self-compassion around these things. We won't make the healthiest choices 100% of the time, and to expect that is unrealistic. Taking steps to make small, and sustainable improvements will help you to see results.