Keep your weight down with sleep

sleep and body weight

Sleep is the inactivity that is very good for you but in this 24/7 world of ours, it is often sidelined and sacrificed.

Without enough of the right sleep we function far below par.

who doesn't crave a good night's sleep?

A good sleep is a basic human need to recharge and unwind, to relax and escape, to allow the brain to work independently through the events of the day, meticulously sorting, solving and storing them for future retrieval.

Bad sleeps are downright draining, exhausting and stressful. Sleep deprivation is torture, according to the Geneva Convention, yet many adults subject themselves to short spells of sleep deprivation.

The natural drivers for sleep are powerful.

You may have felt them as jet lag where local time is in total conflict with your body's time, when sleep calls but the local clock says it is daytime. You see it in night shift workers who battle against sleepiness on the job. And have noticed your body and brain craving a sleep-in to 'catch-up' after a big late night out or a crazy busy week.

You may wonder why a dietitian is writing about sleep. It is because I explore varied aspects of life that impact on body weight, food intake and metabolic health. Sleep is one of those.

The links between sleep and appetite regulation, energy levels, body weight and weight regain can not be ignored.

Sleep and excess body fat are connected but researchers can not confidently determine which comes first, the poor sleep or the excess weight, and whether one causes the other. Does poor sleep contribute to obesity or is obesity contributing to poor sleep?

The role of a poor night's sleep in causing excessive weight gain is hard to measure and uncertain. It is a bit like the chicken and the egg story.

But from my study of different sleep lab's research, it seems obvious that poor sleep and weight gain work in an ever tightening knot. The more weight gained, the poorer the sleep quality. The poorer the sleep, the more likely is weight gain.

what is known about sleep and body weight?

  • Regardless of body weight, short snoozers (5 hours a night versus 8 hours a night) have disturbed appetite regulator levels (lower leptin and higher ghrelin) that could increase appetite and trigger over-eating. Ghrelin is one of the 'hunger' hormones. I nickname is the growling hormone because high levels of ghrelin trigger hunger or "make your stomach growl". Higher levels of leptin dampen your appetite. Leptin is one of the 'not hungry' hormones.
  • People who report an average total sleep time of 5 hours a night are more likely to become obese compared with people who sleep 7 to 9 hours a night.
  • Regardless of body weight, people with insomnia have higher levels of cortisol and other glucocorticoids especially in the afternoon, evening and early night. High cortisol levels may increase desire for high fat, high sugar foods. High cortisol levels increase the tendency to store fat around the abdomen.
  • Poor sleepers with daytime tiredness and may reach for more foods to pick up energy levels.
  • Poor sleepers have lower daytime energy levels and may have less drive to be physically active. Mentally tired but not physically tired people may struggle to sleep well.
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) worsens with weight gain and improves with weight loss. OSA ruins both sleep quality and quantity and the resulting daytime tiredness may drive a preference for energy dense 'pick-me-up' foods and drinks. Higher levels of leptin (a hormone that triggers appetite) are also seen in people with OSA.
  • People with obesity generally have poorer sleep quality. Sleep disturbance is a more common predictor for a short sleep.
  • Shift workers may need fewer kilojoules (calories) on night shifts and when moving to day shifts due to a misalignment of the 'biological clock' (circadian rhythm); the internal body clock is promoting sleep. When combined with poor daytime sleep, shift workers are set up for unhealthy weight gain.


While the sleep scientists do further research to discover how body fat and sleep are interconnected, I will let you in on some better news about sleep and body weight.

New research shows that good sleep is shaping up as one of the essentials to prevent weight regain.

A better sleep helps reduce the unhappy likelihood of regaining lost weight

How can you possibly get a good sleep in this hectic world of ours?

In a world, where sunrise and sunset barely influence the human body's natural sleep cycle. A world where there are not enough hours in the day to do what you have to do. Sleep seems sacrificial.

how much sleep do most people need?

The length of sleep needed changes with age.

      • Babies need the most, on average 16 to 18 hours sleep a day.
      • Toddlers and preschoolers need 11 to 12 hours sleep a day.
      • School aged kids and teenagers need at least 10 hours sleep each night.
      • Adults need the least, on average 7 to 9 hours sleep a night.

Everyone needs enough good quality sleep that is not constantly disrupted.

How much sleep do you need?

Are you an exception who needs fewer than 7 hours sleep? Or is it just your perception that you get by on less?

An extra hour or two of sleep could well make the world of difference to how you function, your mood and the health of your body.

Sleep is one inactivity that could help prevent unhealthy weight regain.

Make it an aim to improve both the quality and length of your sleep if you have been short changing your body.

where to start to get a better sleep

Work on ways to better manage the aspects of better sleep that are in your control.

The keys to a good sleep go well beyond a comfortable mattress and pillow.

At the extreme, you could double glaze the windows and install soundproofing but seriously, there are a few simpler and less expensive solutions to improve sleep quality. Read my top 10 Simple Sleep Well Tips to Improve Sleep. Use them straight away.

Take advantage of holidays to reset your body and brain towards a better sleep cycle. You will find that it helps keep your body in better overall shape.

Combine a good sleeping pattern with active fun for your body and mind. Add a diet of foods that nourish your body to maximise your health further. To see how much to eat and what food serves and portions look like, get a copy of my book 'this=that: a life-size photo guide to food serves'.

Now Only

this=that (adult's edition) "seconds"