Sleep health and your weight

Everyone needs it, but do we always get enough?

Most people are aware that poor sleep can have negative consequences on our ability to function during the day, including mood performance. But, did you know that sleep health also is related to your weight?

What happens in the body when we sleep? Sleep may seem to be a passive period where the body shuts down during the night, but it is an active period. Two separate processes interact to regulate sleep: First the circadian rhythm, which is an internal biological clock regulating many systems in the body including alertness, gut activities and core body temperature. The second process is the sleep drive which builds up during our waking hours, which is why we feel sleepier when we have been awake for a period.

So, how does poor sleep have a negative impact on weight? When the amount of sleep per night is consistently below seven hours, health consequences can include obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. When sleep is poor, it can disrupt the release of leptin (fullness hormone) and ghrelin (hunger hormone) — which impacts metabolism. These hormone changes increase appetite and food intake because of increased hunger signals and fewer signs to stop eating.

What are some behavior changes you can do to improve your sleep health?

  • Make time for sleep. Make sleep a priority! Getting adequate sleep is an important part of staying healthy and active.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Keeping a consistent sleep pattern keeps our biological activities in our body on a regular schedule.
  • Establish a pre-sleep ritual. Stay active during the day but give yourself time to wind down before sleep. Establish a relaxing pre-sleep ritual. Ideas for this may be gentle yoga, deep breathing/meditation, progressive muscle relaxation or a warm bath.
  • Evaluate your sleep environment. Make your bedroom favorable for sleep. Try to avoid electronics and other bright lights. Also, keep your room temperature comfortable.

Read more good sleep habits.

Michelle Lee, BS
Exercise Physiologist
Lifestyle Health

Resource: Jason Ong, PhD; Diana Chirinos, PhD; and Bonnie Yap, MS