It is commonplace to find people who do almost everything right to attain the right weight, yet see little or no results. They eat the right kind of food, exercise at least thrice (3ce) a week, watch their portion of meals, but the effects of all these good work seem to crawl.

Yes, it is easy to attribute it to the few times you binge on the wrong things, stress, health conditions like hypothyroidism, or probe if this individual is actually doing the right things during exercise. But a grey area we always seem to overlook is ‘SLEEP’!!!


The debate about the best way to achieve a healthy weight always revolves around eating and movement. If you want to look better, the most common suggestion and the best as it is “eat less and move more.” But it’s not that simple for some people. Sometimes you want to eat less and move more, but it seems impossible to do so. And there might be a good reason: Between living your life, working, and exercising, you’re forgetting to ‘sleep enough’. Sleep is the key to being rewarded for your diet and fitness efforts. 

It’s obvious that a lot of people are sleep deprived. Waking up at extremely early hours to beat the mad-morning-rush, getting spent at the office, and spending hours in traffic to make it home just before 10pm. And when you consider the statistics for obesity with that of those who are sleep deprived, you realize it’s nearly identical, therefore making it easy to connect the dots and discover that the connection is not a coincidence.

Not sleeping enough, less than six hours of sleep per night can reduce and undo the benefits of dieting. The amount of fat lost during a period of sleep deprivation is cut in half compared to when adequate sleep is received. Sleep deprivation makes you feel significantly hungrier, get less satisfied after meals, and lack energy to exercise.


Think about the last time you had a bad night of sleep. How did you feel when you woke up? Exhausted. Dazed. Confused. Maybe even a little grumpy? It’s not just your brain and body that feel that way, your fat cells do too! When your body is sleep deprived, it suffers from “metabolic grogginess. One late night at work leads to two late nights, and next thing you know, you’re in sleep debt.
You might say but it’s just a few nights, so how bad could it be? You might be able to cope just fine. After all, coffee does wonders. But the hormones that control your fat cells don’t feel the same way.

Within just four days of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to properly use insulin (the master storage hormone) becomes completely disrupted.

You ask, why is that a bad thing? Well, when your insulin is functioning well, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from your blood stream and prevent storage. When you become more insulin resistant, fats (lipids) circulate in your blood and pump out more insulin. Eventually this excess insulin ends up storing fat in all the wrong places, such as tissues like your liver. And this is exactly how you become fat and suffer from diseases like diabetes.


Many people believe that hunger is related to willpower and learning to control the call of your stomach, but that’s incorrect. Hunger is controlled by two hormones: leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin is a hormone that is produced in your fat cells. The less leptin you produce, the more your stomach feels empty. The more ghrelin you produce, the more you stimulate hunger while also reducing the amount of calories you burn (your metabolism) and increasing the amount fat you store. In other words, you need to control leptin and ghrelin to successfully lose weight, but sleep deprivation makes that nearly impossible. Recent medical research has shown that sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of your brain that increases your need for food while also depressing leptin and stimulating ghrelin.

Also, when you don’t sleep enough, your cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is the ‘stress hormone’ that is frequently associated with fat gain. Cortisol also activates reward centers in your brain that make you want food. At the same time, the loss of sleep causes your body to produce more ghrelin. A combination of high ghrelin and cortisol shut down the areas of your brain that leave you feeling satisfied after a meal, meaning you feel hungry all the time, even if you just ate a big meal.

And it gets worse.

Lack of sleep also pushes you in the direction of the foods you know you shouldn’t eat. Studies have found that just one night of sleep deprivation was enough to impair activity in your frontal lobe, which controls complex decision-making.

Ever had a conversation like this?

I really shouldn’t have that extra piece of cake… then again, one slice won’t really hurt, right?

Sleep deprivation is a little like being drunk. You just don’t have the mental clarity to make good complex decisions, specifically with regards to the foods you eat or foods you want to avoid. This isn’t helped by the fact that when you’re overtired, you also have increased activity in the amygdala, the reward region of your brain. This is why sleep deprivation destroys all diets; think of the amygdala as mind control, it makes you crave high-calorie foods. Normally you might be able to fight off this desire, but because your insular cortex (another portion of your brain) is weakened due to sleep deprivation, you have trouble fighting the urge and are more likely to indulge in all the wrong foods.

The bottom line: Not getting enough sleep means you’re always hungry, reaching for bigger portions, and desiring every type of food that is bad for you and you don’t have the proper brain functioning to tell yourself NO!


Unfortunately, the disastrous impact spreads beyond diet and into your workouts. No matter what your fitness goals are, having some muscle on your body is important. Muscle is the enemy of fat, it helps you burn fat and stay young. But lack of sleep is the enemy of muscle-build.

Lack of sleep makes it harder for your body to recover from exercise by slowing down the production of growth hormone your natural source of anti-aging and fat burning that also facilitates recovery. This happens in two different ways:

  • Poor sleep means less slow wave sleep, which is when the most growth hormone is released.
  • As previously mentioned, a poor night of rest increases the stress hormone cortisol, which slows down the production of growth hormone. That means that the already reduced production of growth hormone due to lack of slow wave sleep is further reduced by more cortisol in your system. It’s a vicious cycle.

When you’re suffering from slept debt, everything you do feels more challenging, specifically your workouts.


Ensure you receive between six and nine hours of sleep per night, and also make sure that one poor night of sleep isn’t followed up with a few more. It might not seem like much, but it could make all the difference and mean more than any other health decision you make.

Always sleep in a dark room, put off all the lights from glowing computer monitors, TV and clock radios to any number of blinking and glimmering electronic devices. Sleeping in total darkness allows the hormone melatonin to be released which aids a good and robust sleep, essential to prevent brain damage and other diseases.

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