How lack of sleep can wreck your diet

How Lack of Sleep Can Wreck Your Diet

This week, we have a guest blog from community dedicated to improving sleep hygiene and health.  I've written about how lack of sleep can impact your health.  You can read that blog here.  But sometimes, having a new, fresh perspective on the topic can help provide some clarity.  Enjoy!  ~Sunny

If you’re going full steam ahead on the new diet plan, you might want to take a step back and make sure you’re giving yourself the best chance at success. As it turns out, how much and what you eat depends on more than your willpower. Sleep plays a key role in appetite and metabolism control. Without it, your efforts at improving your health may come to a frustrating halt.

Sleep, Hunger, and Satiety

The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep. When you get less, your body changes the way it functions. Ghrelin, a hunger hormone, gets released in higher amounts than usual when you’re tired. At the same time, the satiety hormone leptin gets released in smaller amounts. If you’ve suspected that you are hungrier when you’re tired, you’re right. The decrease in leptin delays the “full” response, making you far more likely to overeat.

If only the changes ended there.

Lack of sleep doesn’t just affect how much you eat. It also causes changes what you eat. Sleep deprivation affects the endocannabinoid (eCB) system, which is heavily involved in appetite and energy. Interestingly, it’s also involved in the high experienced during exercise.

A study published in SLEEP explored the connection between the eCB system and sleep. The participants’ leptin, ghrelin, and eCB levels were measured several times a day both after they’d gotten 4.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep. When they’d only gotten 4.5 hours of sleep, participants chose snack foods with 50 percent more calories and twice the fat than when they were well rested. Researchers also found that, when tired, the reward center of the brain experienced a bigger high than normal from those unhealthy foods.

Some of these changes in eating habits may be because sleep deprivation can influence taste. A study published in Appetite found that the changes in taste associated with sleep deprivation influenced food cravings. Yet another reason, you’re likely to reach for sweets when you’re tired.

Better Sleep for Better Eating

Adequate sleep is an integral part of a healthy eating plan. While you still need to make good food choices, adequate rest can take some of the edge off of hunger pains. You’re more likely to be able to exert your own willpower when you’re not fighting your own body. To get a little more shut-eye try:

Keeping a Consistent Sleep-Wake Schedule: 

Consistency can make all the difference to your sleep success. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day regulates the release of sleep hormones. Once adjusted, your brain will automatically release sleep hormones at the same time each day.

Establishing a Bedtime Routine: 

Bedtime routines aren't just for kids. A routine can help trigger the brain to release sleep hormones as well as allow you to release stress and tension. Meditation, yoga, reading a book, or taking a warm bath are all popular ways to calm both mind and body before bed. Try to perform your bedtime routine at the same time and in the same order every day.

Lighting Your Room Right: 

The sleep cycle is largely controlled by exposure to natural light. However, we live in an era of light pollution and constant access to bright electronic screens. The lighting of your sleep environment can make or break your ability to get a full night’s rest. At night, try to keep light to a minimum or none at all in the bedroom. Of course, a motion-activated night light can help you find your way to the bathroom without overstimulating your brain.

Regularly Timed and Spaced Meals: 

Light isn’t the only way your body regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Meal timing also impacts the release of sleep hormones. Eating your meals at roughly the same time every day helps establish a regular cycle that your body can follow. Meals should also be regularly spaced throughout the day. As far as dinner goes, light and early meals reduce the chances of sleep-delaying indigestion.

Avoiding Screens: 

Some electronics give off a blue light that stimulates the brain similarly to natural sunlight. Unfortunately, that means it suppresses sleep hormones. Try turning off your screens two to three hours before bed to prevent a delay in the onset of sleep

Good sleep shouldn’t a be a luxury but a priority. If you’re ready to start a new diet plan or you’re not finding success on your current one, adequate sleep could make the difference.

What are you doing to actively improve your sleep habits and health?  Drop a comment and let us know!

Guest Author:  

Myra Campbell is a researcher for the sleep science and health organization Her passion for art and design brought her into the field. She began by researching how to create a relaxing bedroom and learned that great design can help improve our health and well-being. Myra lives in southern California and shares her queen-sized bed with two rescue dogs.

Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS

I'm Sunny! I'm a board-certified clinical nutritionist with an MS in Clinical Nutrition. I help individuals reduce fatigue, eliminate bloat, and lose weight by healing the digestive tract and balancing hormones. I provide individual and group nutrition consultations nationwide. Grab my metabolism boosting guide!

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