Losing out on sleep can create a viscous cycle in your body, making you more prone to various factors that can contribute to weight gain.
The more sleep-deprived you are, the higher your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite. And it’s not like you’re suddenly going to be ravenous for kale either. When you're tired, you tend to go for whatever’s going to be easy and make you feel better in the moment. Often, that means reaching for bad-for-you foods.
A lack of sleep can also hinder your body’s ability to process sugar. When you’re sleep deprived, the mitochondria in your cells that digest fuel start to shut down. Sugar remains in your blood, and you end up with high blood sugar. Losing out on sleep can make fat cells less able to deal with insulin.
As if this were not enough, when you’re wiped out, your hormones go a little nuts, too, boosting levels of the hormone ghrelin, which tells you when you’re hungry, and decreasing leptin, which signals satiety.
How to End Your Cycle of Sleep Deprivation
Luckily, there are easy ways to make sure sleep never gets in between you and your weight goals again. First, figure out your bedtime. Count seven and a half hours before the time you need to wake up. That’s your “lights out” time, which should ensure you’re getting enough sleep to make your body wake itself up at the proper time (maybe even before an alarm goes off). And keep that wake-up time consistent.
Also make sure to keep note of other sleep-related markers, like how you feel throughout the day, exercise, caffeine intake, alcohol and stress levels.
Most important of all, make sleep a priority. It’s physically unhealthy to lose sleep. And it’s such an easy fix in theory, it requires both a behavioral and conceptual shift. Sleeping isn’t downtime. You’re feeding your body just as you are when you eat.