Whether it’s after a festive break, working towards a beach-ready body, or you just wanted to be a bit healthier, we all find ourselves trying to lose weight now and again. If you need to lose weight, dieting and exercise are good ways to start. However, not being mindful of how you diet and how you exercise can cause a variety of sleep issues. This’ll keep you from getting the sleep you need. Good sleep helps to control your weight so, if you’re not sleeping well, you could actually gain weight instead – the complete opposite of what you’re working towards. We all know the frustrations of gaining weight when we’re trying to lose it. In this article, you’ll find out about the connection between dieting and sleep, and how you can help yourself to reach your weight goal.
What’s the Connection Between Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain?
Poor dieting can lead to poor sleep. If you’re not getting the sleep you need, you could find yourself struggling with a host of problems, from irritability, poor mental and physical health, and weight gain. Sleep deprivation affects four primary hormones that are related to weight gain:
- Ghrelin – the ‘hunger hormone’, tells your brain when you’re hungry and when it’s time to eat
- Leptin – the ‘satiety hormone’, tells your brain when you’re full
- Cortisol – a stress hormone that activates when you wake up and conserves energy as fat reserves to use as fuel during the day
- Insulin – a peptide hormone that regulates your body’s ability to process food into energy1
Sleep deprivation increases your ghrelin production and reduces your leptin production. This means that your brain thinks you’re hungrier more often and is less able to recognise when you’re full. When you’re lacking sleep, your body is also unable to properly metabolise carbohydrates, so you’ll experience higher blood sugar levels. This leads to increased insulin and cortisol production. As your insulin resistance grows, your body doesn’t process fat and sugars as well as it should, so it stores most of it as fat. This results in weight gain.2
With higher blood sugar levels, you’re also at a higher risk of developing diabetes. You can read more about diabetes and sleep here.
Sleep deprivation also reduces your self-control, making it more difficult to stick to a diet. You’ll be more prone to indulge in junk food, and you may be more likely to snack later at night, eat bigger portions, and crave high-carbohydrate and fat-rich foods.
When you’re sleep deprived, you’re also more likely to struggle with feelings of fatigue, so you’re less motivated to exercise and work off the extra weight. Therefore, it’s important that you get enough uninterrupted sleep.
If you’re overweight, you’re at more risk of developing sleep apnoea. Sleep Apnoea is a breathing disorder in which someone’s breathing is briefly interrupted while they’re sleeping. This will wake them up momentarily, but the person usually goes back to sleep. While they may have no memory of waking up, their breathing can be interrupted hundreds of times a night. These frequent moments of waking can interrupt their sleep, leading to fatigue and sleep deprivation.
If someone is overweight, this increased weight can put more pressure on the airways and make it more difficult to breathe during the night.3 This doesn’t help your sleep quality at all, and will lead to sleep deprivation and weight gain.
Sleep Apnoea also leads to daytime sleepiness, which can make someone less inclined to change their diet or exercise, since they experience lower energy levels, poorer mood, and decreased self-control.
What Dieting Issues Affect Your Sleep?
While you’re dieting, it’s easy to forget how important sleep is to your general health. However, making sure that you sleep well each night is a good way to make sure you lose weight. Solving some of the common issues people find when they’re dieting will help you to get a good night’s sleep.
People who are dieting are more likely to drink more, whether they’re on a liquid diet or they’re just drinking more water to feel full. Water helps to flush toxins out of the body and, as it reduces the feelings of hunger, is an important part to any diet and overall health. However, drinking more water during the day will increase trips to the bathroom during the night. This will interfere with the quality of your sleep. It’s a good idea to limit your liquid intake later in the day to avoid this. Drink the largest quantities of water in the morning and taper off as the day continues. Avoid drinking water within a few hours of going to bed.
While cutting calories is part of every diet, hunger can make it harder for you to fall asleep at night-time. Many people will eat their evening meal earlier in the day and cut out any night-time snacks when trying to lose weight. However, doing this can mean that you go to bed hungry. When the body’s hungry, it’s unable to relax4 – making sleep a challenge. You can avoid this by having a small healthy snack before bedtime. Choosing the right food won’t hinder your diet. If possible, eat granola, yoghurt, cheese, chicken, oatmeal and whole-grain cereals, bananas, or nuts. Not only are these foods healthy, but they’ll actually help you sleep.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re probably exercising. This is great – but be careful of how you exercise. If you exercise in the hours leading up to going to bed, your body may have trouble falling asleep as too much stimulation in the late evening can put off your sleep for hours. Try to exercise as early in the day as possible – the morning is best. If you can only exercise in the late evening, choose an exercise that won’t stress your body, like stretching or yoga. You can read more about how exercise helps improve your sleep in our article, ‘Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep’.
How You Eat
The diet you choose can also hinder your sleep. If you opt for diet shakes for breakfast and lunch, and then eat your largest meal of the day in the evening, you could have trouble sleeping. This is because the body may feel uncomfortable and digestion issues can arise.5 If this is the case, you may not feel well, and this can keep you awake, too. On the other hand, if you eat your largest meals in the day and opt for only liquids at night, you could keep your body awake if you’re choosing the wrong drinks. Avoid stimulants, like energy drinks, coffee, alcohol, and tea. No matter the type of diet you’re on, try to eat lightly throughout the day and closely watch your caffeine intake in the evenings.
If you’re looking to shed a few extra pounds, it’s important to remember that you need to sleep well, not just eat well. Make sure you get a good sleep by keeping a regular sleep schedule that makes sure you get the right amount of sleep each night. A well-rested body will aid your weight loss, and improve your health. Also, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor when considering a diet, as they can help you to stay healthy with a balanced diet and exercise. Checking with your doctor is especially important if you have a pre-existing health condition, like diabetes, that would be affected when going on a diet.
You can also have a look at our article, ‘Eat Well to Sleep Well‘, to find out what foods promote good sleep, and what foods will keep you awake. Or read our article, ‘Five Drinks You Should Avoid Before Going to Bed‘, to find out what drinks can keep you up at night.