Are Poor Sleeping Habits Sabotaging Your Diet?

While positive diet and exercise changes have long been associated with losing weight, scientists are now showing that unhealthy sleeping patterns may be counterproductive to weight loss, as well. Some of the newest research has studied the impact of sleep on our hormones, metabolism, and energy levels.  Such metabolic changes can impact our ability to maintain a healthy weight.

Sleep and Hormones
Hormones are responsible for a variety of biological functions, such as sending chemical messages throughout the body, controlling metabolism, and aiding in the development of lean body mass.  Lack of adequate sleep can affect how these processes function.

For example, the hormone responsible for signaling hunger can be overproduced during periods of exhaustion, while the hormone that tells us to stop eating is under produced.  This can lead to overeating or eating even when we do not need food.

(Production of other hormones needed to regulate your biological clock and help fight infection are also decreased during periods of inadequate sleep.)

Sleep and Metabolism
Metabolism is responsible for the breakdown of food into vital nutrients needed to make and utilize energy.  Recent studies have shown sleep deprivation can cause metabolic rate to become less effective.  The body can recover from short periods of sleep deprivation, however chronic deprivation is more difficult for the body to resolve.

Changes in metabolism—typically caused by altered hormone production—can slow the body’s metabolic processes.  When we cannot utilize the energy we consume efficiently, the body is triggered to store it as fat.  Ultimately, this may lead to weight gain.

Sleep and Energy

Energy levels in the brain and body are maximized with adequate sleep.  When our energy is up, we are more likely to choose healthier foods and exercise, both of which also help energize throughout the day.

It is easy to see how sleep can impact your health goals. Here are some tips to ensure that you get a good night’s rest!

  1. Maintain a regular schedule.                                                                                                                                                                                           Studies show that varying your sleep schedule by more than 90 minutes can have a negative effect on mood and health.  Keeping a regular sleep schedule will help set your body’s internal clock.
  2. Get 8 hours per night.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  On average adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, although everyone is different.
  3. Turn off electronics.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Sleeping in darkness is a sure way to get better quality shuteye.  By removing high-tech devices that could potentially wake you during the night, you increase your chances of getting an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
  4. Rethink caffeinated drinks.                                                                                                                                                                                                    The effects of caffeine can be long-lasting.  Refraining from caffeine for 3 to 8 hours before bed can improve the amount and quality of sleep you get.
  5. Don’t snack before sleep.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Try to Have your last meal 2 to 3 hours before bedtime to ensure your body has time to process the food before trying to sleep.

The next time you reach for an energy drink or coffee to get through your day, think about grabbing your pillow a bit earlier instead! 

Amanda Powell is a Dietetic Intern at Massachusetts General Hospital. Originally from Florida, she moved to New England to pursue degrees in Culinary Arts and Culinary Nutrition from Johnson & Wales University. Her greatest passion is helping people heal through food and a healthy lifestyle.

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Our Be Fit Nutritionists are comprised of dietetic interns studying at Massachusetts General Hospital. During their internship, they receive training on acute care nutrition, ambulatory and community nutrition, food service systems management, and research. Their comprehensive work is done in collaboration with registered dietitians.

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