//Lack of Sleep Can Affect Weight Loss Goals

Lack of Sleep Can Affect Weight Loss Goals


Sleep is one of the greatest blessings as it ‘resets’ the body systems to their optimum levels. It’s the repair period of the body to rectify the ongoing disturbances in our biological chemicals. Sleeping is integral part of healthy living as it affects the balance of many primary hormones and metabolic cycles. All health measures will go in vain in absence of a good sleep pattern. In this 24/7 era, sleep is easily ignored and replaced by routine chores and late working hours.

Since lack of sleep can potentially lead to many health issues; obesity is one of them. Sleep and weight gain are closely associated in many complex ways culminating in the same unpleasant outcome of obesity. In spite of all the weight loss measures; many individuals fail to attain their fitness goals just because of their disturbed sleep levels. They fail to acknowledge the fact that sleeping is as vital as dieting and exercise. A night of disturbed sleep can not only lead to unwanted weight gain but also cause a hindrance in getting rid of those extra pounds. Hence, along with sticking to a regular exercise plan and utilizing low calories food, sleeping for right amount of time is also essential for weight loss.

How Sleeping Can Affect Weight Loss?

Bodyweight is affected by lack of sleep in two ways:

  1. One is behavioral like overeating, low energy levels, fatigue, hunger pangs, depressed mood and lack of clarity.
  2. Other is physiologic like disturbed levels of hormones like cortisol, ghrelin, leptins, insulin, testosterone, and estrogen.

Behavioral Impacts of Sleep on Weight Loss

Lack of energy and binge eating:  Sleeping has the power to replenish the lack of energy and refill the body fuel in the form of optimum levels of hormones and neurotransmitters. If a person is lacking sleep, he/she will end up having lack of energy. It’s quite natural for a person with low energy to look for a big size coffee to feel alert. In the same scenario, it’s highly probable to dwell on large size of burger or any kind of junk in order to gain energy. If a person is awake for a longer period of time, it’s natural for him/her to keep on eating snacks or other foods.

Loss of clarity in healthy decisions: Brain loses clarity of thinking when not given proper rest. This lack of decision making will alter the willpower of losing weight and eating healthy in the blink of an eye. The derailed focus of mind will result in foggy thinking and fewer chances of following a healthy diet or keeping on workout plans.  All these factors will lead to eating more calories and gaining even more weight instead of losing it.

Increased appetite and unnecessary calories: Our body makes two hormones that are responsible for controlling our hunger. One is ghrelin and the other is leptin. Ghrelin is released by stomach and it signals the brain that body needs to eat. Its concentration is highest just before eating and lowest after the stomach is filled with food. Leptin is secreted by fat cells and signals the brain that body is full and no need to eat. Studies have shown that both of these hormones are affected by sleep in a negative way. Body secrets more ghrelin, fewer leptons and they also lose the efficiency of their feedback and result in more appetite accumulating more calories.

Physiologic Effects of Sleep on Weight Loss

Lack of sleep causes metabolic problems: Our body keeps on burning calories at rest too and it’s known as the basic metabolic rate. Many types of studies have concluded that disturbed sleep decreases the basal metabolic rate and body burn less than normal calories. The metabolic pathways fail to work efficiently as a lack of sleep also causes a lack in the substrates and enzymes that are mandatory for metabolism. The metabolism of carbs (utilization of sugars) is especially compromised resulting in higher levels of blood sugar levels and addition in the net body fats. It can predispose to many chronic disorders like diabetes, hypertension, and ischemia due to unhealthy levels of fats and sugars.

Hormonal Disorders

This is the mainstay of reactions where sleep has definite effects on body weight through various hormones and neurotransmitters. The main hormones affected are cortisol, cortisol releasing hormone, insulin, and testosterone. All of these hormonal pathways are intermixed and have close correlation with one another. The disturbance of one hormone culminates in disruption of the whole system. Of all the hormones mentioned here, cortisol is the major hormone that is disturbed by sleep and has maximum impact on body weight.

CORTISOL effects on weight loss: It is also known as the stress hormone and prepares the body for emergency responses. It is secreted by adrenal glands in a cyclic fashion; highest in morning and lowest at midnight during deep sleep. When a person is awake at midnight; the normal pattern of cortisol secretion gets altered. The body starts secreting high concentrations of cortisol in response to poor sleeping habits that ultimately lead to weight gain. Cortisol adds to body weight in the following ways:

  • Cortisol keeps the body in ‘stress’ even in the state of rest through its functions on many vital organs. It turns on the metabolism of sugars and fats and causes high levels of sugar to maintain instant energy. As a result of this continuous ‘fight and flight’ mode, body keeps on accumulating calories in form of fat. It also increases the cravings for energy-rich food items like sweets to satisfy the metabolic needs of body.
  • Cortisol triggers the consistent release of insulin to process the body’s sugar levels. The higher than normal levels of insulin in the body trigger insulin resistance. Since insulin is required for entry of glucose in muscles, insulin resistance makes them weak and fatigued. Sugar keeps on increasing in blood without getting utilized. This prolonged phenomenon of insulin resistance can lead to type-two diabetes.
  • Cortisol, in males, has an inverse relationship with male hormone testosterone; higher the cortisol, lower the testosterone. Testosterone is responsible for increasing muscle mass. In absence of lower levels of testosterone, body loses muscle mass. Muscles are main point of energy consumption and hence fewer calories can be used resulting in obesity. Secondly, testosterone is also required for quality sleep and its reduced level can cause sleep fragmentation and insomnia.
  • Cortisol, in females, is responsible for high levels of estrogen and lower levels of progesterone. It is the parent chemical of progesterone so higher concentrations of cortisol cause a decrease in progesterone and lower levels of progesterone, in response, cause higher levels of estrogen. These consistently increased levels of estrogen cause weight gain and menstrual disorders in females.
  • Cortisol not only increases the body fats but also determines its site of deposits. Studies have concluded that cortisol tends to cause central obesity; fats’ deposition in the abdomen around viscera. This kind of obesity is dangerous as it can possibly trigger cardiovascular diseases like stroke and heart attack.


  1. Don’t miss breakfast
  2. Don’t skip any meals
  3. Include protein with each meal
  4. Incorporate good fats with each meal
  5. Drink plenty of water
  6. Don’t eat after 7 p.m.
  7. Take herbs and supplements to support your endocrine system
  8. Do a sugar fast for a month
  9. Go for a walk to calm your nerves
  10. Always have healthy snacks available with you
  11. Meditate

It can be concluded that sleep is one of the primary factors to prevent obesity and reducing weight. Being stressed out and sleep deprived is not healthy at all and can exert harmful effects on our biologic cycles. Prioritize your sleep schedule to get back in shape by achieving your fitness goals.