How Improving Your Sleep Helps Your Metabolism

By Alexandra Frost

So you are eating healthy foods, logging more workouts, and still, the number on your scale is stuck. How many hours of sleep did you get last night? What some people haven’t considered is the profound impact sleep loss can have on your metabolism. The Sleep Foundation reports that Americans average around seven and a half hours of sleep per night, but most Americans need 7-9 hours. Scientists have also proven a connection between those who sleep 6 hours or less and higher rates of obesity. Sleep deprivation messes with your systems: you’re more likely to gain weight, your circadian rhythms can be compromised, and you can develop metabolic dysregulation. Here’s why getting more ZZZ’s can lead to speeding up your metabolism:

Your insulin response will impair your metabolism

Here’s what happens: after just a few days of limited sleep, your body’s insulin production system (needed to convert food into energy) is impacted. With your body not properly responding to insulin, you can’t convert and process fat in the bloodstream, so it is stored as fat. In this way, University of Chicago researchers told WEB MD, you become “metabolically groggy.” 

Sleep deprivation leads to poor decision making

Your willpower to eat more veggies and avoid a midnight ice cream date with yourself in front of your freezer is more powerful if you are well-rested. Multiple studies have shown that snacking increases in sleep-deprived study participants, and even that they are more likely to choose high-carb and high-fat options. This makes sense because our tired bodies seek carbohydrates to replenish. Some studies show this can even increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. Lowered leptin levels lead to those carb cravings.

Blaming lipids: Food becomes less satisfying, so you want more

University of Washington researchers studied 15 adult men in their 20’s, who slept for only 5 hours per night for five nights in a row. At the end of the study, they were given a high calorie dinner, which they reported to be “less satisfying” than when they’d eaten the same dinner well-rested. This helped the researchers demonstrate “how the uncomfortable schedule affected metabolism.”

This phenomenon is the result of lipids not being evaporated properly (called the postprandial lipid response) which the researchers said can predispose people to put on weight. They found this out by comparing their bloodwork to previous samples from when they were well rested.

So if you find yourself going for seconds and overeating, check on your recent sleep schedule.

Solving your sleep crisis 

In each of the studies, sleep deprivation caused the metabolic issues when people didn’t sleep enough over a period of a few nights. So, to ensure you are getting enough sleep, aim for the recommended 7-9 hours each evening, rather than trying to play catch up after a poor night’s sleep. Keeping your schedule consistent will help your metabolism, and all the systems that rely on it, regular. That being said, one bad night isn’t going to throw you into metabolic chaos, so don’t stress if your occasional light night Netflix binge watching habit messes with bedtime.