Sleep and Weight Gain

Did you ever think that your sleep habits can affect your waistline?  Eating right with daily exercise is an important part of weight management but sleep is often an overlooked contributing factor.  Although sleep requirements are individualized, most adults need about 7-9 hours daily.

Sleep and Weight GainDuring sleep, many important things occur.  This is when muscles repair themselves, immune system cells are replenished and growth hormone (a hormone that stimulates growth of bone and muscle) is released.   Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on your hormones.  When the body is deprived of sleep, glucose metabolism is impaired and cortisol, a stress hormone is increased.  In addition, the hormone ghrelin is increased and this makes you feel hungry.

Another reason for weight gain from sleep deprivation is obvious.  If you are awake for more hours of the day, you simply have more time to give in to cravings.  Many people engage in snacking even when they are not physically hungry.  Not getting enough sleep also means you will likely be too tired to go to the gym and that will further weaken your weight loss plans.


How can you ensure a good nights sleep?  Start by using the following ten tips:

  1. Strengthen the connection between your bedroom and sleep. Remove anything electronic such as your computer, television or phone.  If you absolutely must have one of these items in your room, such as a digital clock, cover the light with a towel.  Light is a cue to your brain that it is time to wake up.  Create a dark, tranquil environment that is free from any reminders of stress.
  2. Sleep and Weight GainHave a bedtime ritual. This allows your brain to learn that sleep time is arriving.  For example, get cloths ready for the next day, brush your teeth and then get your pajamas on.  Repeat the same routine every night.
  3. Turn off the lights. Darkness promotes an increase in melatonin, a hormone that gets you to go to sleep.
  4. Keep your bedroom cool. If you are too hot you will wake up. It is also helpful to take a warm bath before bed.  As your body cools it will make you feel sleepy.
  5. Prevent insomnia. Do not look at your clock once you go to bed.  If you estimate that you have been lying awake in bed for twenty minutes or so, go into another room and do something relaxing like reading.
  6. Have a sleep schedule. This means get up and go to the bed at the same time every day…including weekends.
  7. Do not nap. This may interfere with your sleep cycle.
  8. Be careful with caffeine and alcohol. Avoid alcohol and caffeine at least six hours prior to your bed time.
  9. Manage your stress. If you have excessive stress talk to a friend or seek help from a credentialed therapist.
  10. Earn your sleep! Engage in physically demanding activities on a daily basis such as walking, biking or weight lifting. Remember to finish your workout at least three hours prior to bedtime.

Diet and exercise are critical for obtaining a healthy body weight.  However, sleep is another noteworthy factor to consider in achieving your goals.  Part of any successful lifestyle program must include appropriate sleep behaviors.