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Is lack of sleep blocking your weight loss?

Lack of sleep can play havoc with our bodies and our ability to function at our best! I remember when my children were very little, they were both up constantly throughout the night - I had days where I could barely think straight.

But lack of sleep doesn’t have to be extreme to affect us. Have you noticed that when you don’t sleep well you eat more the next day?

One of the ways insufficient sleep impacts our bodies is that it disrupts our appetite regulation. Lack of sleep increases our levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite and increases fat storage. It also reduces levels of leptin a hormone that suppresses appetite and promotes fat burning. So if you don’t get enough sleep you are likely to eat more AND burn less fat.

How much sleep do you get a night?

If you generally get less than seven to eight hours sleep, you are more likely to be overweight. One study found that every thirty minutes’ deficit in sleep equated to an extra 83 calories per day consumed. On this basis, you could gain over 7kg in a year if you get six and a half hours sleep per night instead of seven and a half.

So how can you make sure you are getting enough sleep? Sleeping problems can be complex, but here are six tips that may help:

1. Have a regular meal pattern and avoid eating late in the evening

2. Eat a varied diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and water.

3. Watch your caffeine and alcohol intake

Chocolate, coffee and caffeinated teas can all disrupt your sleep. The amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee from a coffee shop can disturb your sleep if consumed up to six hours before bedtime. (On the other hand, valerian and camomile teas are calming and may help you relax and get to sleep.)

Alcohol also disrupts your sleep and can make you wake up more frequently.

4. Have a bedtime routine

Try to go to bed at the same time each night. You may find it helps to have a warm bath before bed or do some breathing exercises, a meditation or visualisation or yoga.

5. Include foods that contain tryptophan

Your body needs the amino acid tryptophan to make melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is a hormone which regulates your sleep-wake cycle and serotonin may also play a role in this. Tryptophan containing foods include turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, oats, pumpkin seeds, milk, yogurt and cheese. (Note: cheese can be inflammatory, so it’s best to have small amounts only)

6. Sleep in a dark room and avoid screens for an hour before bed

Light at night time can affect your production of melatonin, which regulates your sleep cycle. Blue light from phones, computers and TV can also suppress your melatonin levels.

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Lack of sleep is just one of many factors that can block your weight loss.

Do you want to work with your body to make it so much easier to lose weight?

Learn more: The Body Effect: Discover what’s triggering your craving and belly fat. Reveal your unique path to lasting weight loss


Galli, G. et al., 2013, ‘Inverse relationship of food and alcohol intake to sleep measures in obesity’, Nutr Diabetes, 3, 1, e58.

Sharma, S. and Kavuru, M., 2010, ‘Sleep and metabolism: an overview’, Int J Endocrinol, 270832; Patel, S.R. and Hu, F.B., 2008, ‘Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review’, Obesity (Silver Spring), 16, 3, 643–653.

Drake, C. et al., 2013, ‘Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed’, J Clin Sleep Med, 9, 11, 1195–200.

Tähkämö L et al., 2019, ‘Systematic review of light exposure impact on human circadian rhythm’, chronobiol Int, 36, 151-170.

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