Sleep Series Part 1: Can Sleep Influence Weight Loss?

Nutrition // Lisa Donaldson // 25 September 2016

Sleep – we all need it! Do you get eight hours sleep a night? Or do you toss and turn and do that dreaded look-at-the-clock-every-hour thing? Sleep can influence many aspects of your life. Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post, even published the book The Sleep Revolution on the importance of sleep.

A lack of sleep doesn’t just affect your energy levels – amongst other things, it can affect your nutrition and exercise (and make it hard to stick to your plans!). In Part One of our two part Sleep Series, 12WBT Dietitian Lisa Donaldson explains why sleep and nutrition are inextricably linked.

Sleep: The Unsung Hero For a Healthy Diet

It may seem like an odd combo, but nutrition and sleep are bound quite tightly. Ever have a rotten night’s sleep and the next day crave chocolate in the afternoon… or find that you are just ‘hangry’? There are some reasons why this may be so, let’s look at those!

1. Say Hello to Hunger Hormones

We have two hormones in our body that control our appetite, they are called leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin is a bit of a gremlin – he’s our appetite INCREASER. Ghrelin levels go up in times of hunger and stays down for about three hours after a meal. Leptin however, is our hormonal ‘appetite suppressor’ and researchers state that leptin can help keep the ghrelin under control. The problem is, the power of leptin is hindered when we are sleep deprived – so, if you have a rotten night of sleep, be prepared for your appetite and hunger to be elevated.

Also read: 10 Reasons You Can’t Stop Eating

2. More Time to Eat

If you are a night owl, you may find yourself lured into the kitchen for some late night snacks. Might sound obvious, but you are more likely to eat more if you stay up later.

3. Give Me Sugar Now!

A lack of sleep can disrupt our adrenal glands and make us feel exhausted. When this happens we tend to look for energy to pick us up, and that energy is often the sugary kind! It’s true, sugar gives us a fast boost, but it is shortly followed by a fast crash. So be prepared, and instead of reaching for the jelly beans, go for a healthy snack – maybe try a slice of toast with nut butter or some banana with yoghurt instead.

Also read: How to Beat Your Sugar Addiction For Good

4. Too Much Of a Good Thing

If you need a solid night’s sleep, you need to think about how much you are eating before you crawl into bed. Portion control is key here, as a really large meal will do you no favours for getting to sleep quickly – it’s not only uncomfortable, but there’s a whole lot of digestion going on! Try to eat at least 90 minutes before bed – and don’t overeat!

5. Love Caffeine and Wine?

If you have a daily affair with both caffeine and wine, be prepared to not sleep solidly. According to the Sleep Health Foundation, the effects of caffeine can last from four to six hours, but your body needs about 24 hours to completely eliminate it. Many people who consume a lot of caffeine think that it no longer stops them from being able to go to sleep, because they have become immune to this effect. However research shows that, even if they think otherwise, their sleep is impaired and they would sleep much better if they abstained from it.

As for alcohol, it may help you nod off quickly but that means you can bypass the first stage of REM sleep. As the alcohol wears off, you’ll go back into REM sleep and you’ll be more likely to have a disrupted sleep overall.

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  1. Gill kube Reply

    Any advise gladly appreciate, I’m 55 and had a radical hysterectomy when I was 38, I had not suffered any menopause until 18 months ago.
    Weight gain low libido, the feeling of tiredness never leaves, and sleeping through the night is a luxury that rarely happens.
    I have always been active and good with my food consumption but now weight gain and every attempt to lose weight is an up hill battle.
    Any suggestions?
    I did have cancer of the uterus so do have lot of scar tissue from hysterectomy so do have to exercise mindfully where my abdomen o is concerned or scar tissue pulls and becomes very painful.
    My self asteam is at all time low, regards my appearance and low libido, I don’t want to feel having cancer but survived is a trade of to feel and looking great again.
    Any help?

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Gill – Thanks for getting in touch. We’re so sorry to hear about everything you’ve gone through over the years. It is really positive to read that you’re keen to get on top of your health and fitness and to lose the weight you’ve gained during this time.

      We do ask that you seek advice from your health care professional before embarking on an exercise program, especially if you’ve had previous treatments and surgeries for cancer. They will give you a recommendation as to which exercises to avoid and which ones you can perform safely.

      We encourage you to then modify the Exercise Plans to suit your needs, based on the results of your health professional’s assessment of you. The comprehensive 12WBT Exercise Index is a great resource to help you in your modifications and you can also take copies of your Exercise Plan and options from the Exercise Index with you to your health care provider/s for more specific advice about individual exercises and alternatives, especially those that involve your abdominal muscles.

      My understanding is that it may feel odd performing some exercises from time to time due to the thickness of the scar tissue in your abdomen, however, listening to your body with your range through each movement is always a good idea and it’s not uncommon to notice things feeling quite different as the adhesions are being worked with your new routine. Again however, have a chat to your health care provider about this and seek their advice.

      The Move program is the entry level program for 12WBT and this is something you might like to consider in consultation with your health care providers. The exercises in its Exercise Plans are all low impact and low intensity, and the Fitness Program itself is comprised of 4-5 days of exercise rather than 6. The Move program is the perfect program for those people who have never exercised before, haven’t exercised in a long time or who have injuries and/or health concerns that require them to introduce a fitness routine very gently.

      While the Calorie Levels are higher for the Move program (as they are designed to be achievable for 12WBTers with a BMI >30) you are welcome to switch to a lower calorie level if you don’t have as much weight to lose.

      If your goals include weight loss, it’s important to keep in mind that weight loss is 80% nutrition, 20% exercise so even if you have to modify the Exercise Plans somewhat, by following the Meal Plans as prescribed, you can still achieve a great result.

      If you were to start and found the Move program too easy after a couple of weeks, you’re welcome to switch up to the Move 2 or Beginner program and then again modify the exercises as needed in consultation with your health care provider/s.

      If you get the ok to join, now would be a perfect time to sign up as October 2016 Pre-Season has recently started and the round kicks off October 31st 2016.

      During Pre-Season you are asked to complete some simple tasks to set you up for success. Members who join closer to the start of the round still need to complete their Pre-Season Tasks.

      To join the October Round Team head here:

      I hope this assists with making an informed decision about signing up. We’d love to have you on board Gill if you and your health care providers feel the Program is right for you!

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

  2. Sara Reply

    Hi Gill,
    Sorry to hear about your situation but very happy to hear that you are taking action.
    There are a lot of self development free materials you can access which will greatly help with self esteem and then link to your mojo. Tony Robbins is a great example, just youtube him for free and see if you like him. If so, there are live events in Australia you can go to, I recently went to one in Sydney and I am on an all time high!

    Also, a life coach may be able to also help you reach your goals and change your state. I run an Accountability Club which works wonders, I am sure there would be something available for you in your area.
    Good luck with your journey!

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