Did you know a lack of sleep is closely correlated with weight gain, a slow metabolism, and the risk of health conditions? Numerous studies have also found that the lower our sleep quality, the slower our body is able to burn fat.
The odd one-nighter won't break the bank, but integrating healthy sleeping habits will definitely pay off! Sleep plays an integral role in regulating our metabolism as it affects numerous hormones and processes related to energy balance and nutrient utilization in the body. As part of our four-part series on building healthy lifestyle habits, Brea Lofton, a registered dietitian at Lumen, shares her tips for achieving quality sleep habits.
Let's dive in!
We spend ⅓ of our lives in bed, and for good reason! Sleep plays one of the most important roles in our metabolism, recovery, and overall health. More specifically, our quality of sleep is closely correlated to weight gain, weight loss, and the way your body metabolizes fat.
To understand how your sleep quality affects your metabolism, you need to know where you stand. The one thing that increases when you sleep is fat burning. Better quality sleep will help your body shift to fat burn overnight, granted that your metabolism is flexible. To optimize your metabolism, you first need to assess your current metabolic health. Understanding where you stand will give you insights into what effect your sleep is having on your body and whether your body is able to shift to fat burn overnight.
Our metabolism is the process of how our body converts the food we eat into energy. Metabolic flexibility is when we're able to to quickly and efficiently shift between different sources of energy, such as carbs, protein and fat. This comes with a number of health benefits, and getting enough sleep is one of them.
Sleep plays an integral role in regulating our metabolism as it affects numerous hormones and processes related to energy balance and nutrient utilization in the body. We like to consider sleep as a session to reset itself. During this time, our body can recuperate & repair itself after all the numerous demands and energy needs called upon it throughout the duration of our day. Moreover, good sleep and rest are vital to almost every system within the body, from our immune system to our digestion, even down to our metabolic health. When we do not get enough sleep, internal responses can ignite within the body, correlating to increased hormones such as leptin, ghrelin, and cortisol.
If you're like most people, you probably don't think much about your metabolism. It's there, but it's not something that we tend to think about on a regular basis. Studies have shown that people who get enough sleep have lower BMIs (body mass index) than those who don't. This is because when we're well-rested, our bodies produce more melatonin—a hormone that signals the brain to slow down and relax. As a result of this new level of alertness during the day, many people find themselves naturally eating healthier foods as they go through their days (instead of grazing all night). When taking your morning measurement, you are able to assess whether you had a quality night of sleep and if your body was able to shift to fat burn.
The best part? You don't need to spend hours each day in bed or even force yourself into a deep slumber; just being able to make it through at least 7-9 hours without waking up is enough! Our data has shown that Lumen users that sleep approximately 7-9 hours per night will lose 1.5x more weight compared to users that sleep approximately 4-6 hours per night. To further back up our research, scientific studies have found that when you're sleep deprived, the hormones involved in regulating your metabolism and your appetite get disrupted.
For instance, lack of sleep has been linked to alterations in hormones that control hunger and satiety, such as ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a hormone that signals hunger, while leptin is a hormone that signals fullness. When we don't get enough sleep, our ghrelin levels tend to increase, and our leptin levels decrease. This can lead to increased feelings of hunger and a reduced sense of fullness, which can increase the risk of overeating and gaining weight over time. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can be impacted by a variety of factors, with sleep being one of them. This stress response can result in our metabolism 'switching gears' in an effort to prioritize & complement our energy needs where and when it is perceived that we need it most.
When you eat can also impact your metabolism and, ultimately, sleep. Eating right before bedtime can impact sleep quality and duration, as our digestive system will attempt to metabolize and absorb the foods from the recent meal while our bodies are simultaneously trying to 'reset' from the activities we have completed earlier in the day.
On the other hand, going to bed hungry can negatively impact sleep quality as well. When we are hungry, our body produces hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can increase alertness and make it harder to fall asleep. Additionally, low blood sugar levels can cause feelings of anxiety or restlessness which can also contribute to sleep interference.
In an analysis of data derived from the American Time Use Survey (1), male and female participants who ate or drank 1 hour prior to bedtime were found to be at more than 2 times greater risk of waking up from sleep throughout the night compared to those who ate or drank earlier in the evening. As the period of time spent eating or drinking prior to bedtime expanded, the odds of short and long sleep durations and waking up after falling asleep decreased. The final analysis of the study found that eating or drinking before bedtime led to longer sleep with more awakenings during the night, which in fact, is less efficient for the body and health to recuperate and consider their resting period as "a good night's sleep" overall.
When we sleep, our bodies have the opportunity to recharge, repair and restore. The brain enters into a state of rest and recovery after being active during the day. While you may be thinking about what you need to do in order to get ready for bed, your body is busy going through its own self-repair process as it goes into deeper levels of sleep.
Sleep helps your metabolism run more efficiently by:
Meal timing, types of food, and nutrition habits before you count sheep all play a huge role in how many hours of sleep you will be able to catch that night. Make sure to eat a light dinner at least three hours before lights out.
Eating a bedtime snack can help promote better sleep, but it's important to choose the right foods. Ideally, your snack should be small and easy to digest, as a heavy meal can interfere with sleep. Focus on consuming foods that increase melatonin and serotonin, calm the body, and prepare you for sleep.
Although there are no foods that are considered the “magic trick” to getting a restful night's sleep, there are nutrients in a variety of foods that can be supportive of quality rest overall. Nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, tryptophan, and Vitamin D can be helpful in numerous ways, working to reduce internal stress levels and enhance sleep quality as well.
Here are some foods that can help your sleep better:
Overall, eating a balanced diet that includes these types of foods may help improve sleep quality and promote overall health. It's also important to note that while certain foods may have sleep-promoting properties, they should be consumed as part of a balanced diet and not relied upon as the sole solution for sleep problems.
If you overload your body with too much to process, quality sleep can become challenging to obtain. Your body needs calories to rest and recover; however, there are indeed foods that can have a negative impact on our quality of sleep (get your hands out of the cookie jar!), caffeine, or foods with dense calories, your body may be more focused on digestion than a restful night's sleep.
Try to avoid these foods before bed:
When you consume these foods close to bedtime, your body may experience physical discomfort, digestive issues, and other disruptions that can interfere with sleep.
Eating before bed is linked to metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors including high blood pressure and belly fat. This may also lead to increasing your chances of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
A lack of adequate sleep has been linked to an increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There are a number of reasons why this occurs.
First, when you're not getting enough quality sleep, your body processes food less efficiently, which means it takes longer for your body to digest it or burn off the calories gained from eating something new.
Second, if you're working at night or sleeping during the day, then there may not be time for proper decompression because your body is busy doing other things instead of taking time to shut down, relax, and get adequate sleep. This can cause your circadian rhythm to become out of sync with the daylight.
And third (perhaps most importantly), lack of sleep causes stress hormones such as cortisol levels to rise. This increases your appetite while reducing your body’s fat-burning ability within cells by reducing production levels.
Lack of sleep can also affect your energy levels and metabolism. Lack of sleep raises stress hormone levels, which causes insulin resistance. This can affect your energy levels and ability to burn fat.
Insulin is a hormone that helps cells use sugar as fuel for energy production in the body. When there is too much glucose (sugar) circulating in the bloodstream, this causes an increase in insulin production.
Our Lumen experts share that:
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to uplift your sleep quality! I often recommend turning to your favorite self-care techniques as your day draws to a close to allow the body, mind, and spirit to begin to relax and get ready for bed.
Some Lumen practices you can adopt to establish a bedtime routine include:
Additionally, using aromatics such as lavender and eucalyptus in an air diffuser can be quite soothing & peaceful to the mind to help you rest peacefully for a night of relaxing & quality slumber. Remember, establishing good sleep habits takes time and effort, but making small changes to your daily routine can make a big difference in your sleep quality and overall health.
Getting enough sleep is crucial for boosting your metabolism. You may feel like you can be productive when you’re tired, but the truth is that your body needs to rest in order to perform at its best. By making sure that you get a good night’s sleep each night, you will help your body burn fat and build up muscle tissue. We hope this blog has helped you learn new habits for better sleep. As always, if you’re looking to level up your health with metrics and real-time data, we are here to help!
Sleep and health. Sleep and Health | Need Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health
The science of sleep: Understanding what happens when you sleep. The Science of Sleep: Understanding What Happens When You Sleep | Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2021, August 8). Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-science-of-sleep-understanding-what-happens-when-you-sleep
Iao SI, Jansen EC, Shedden K, et al. Associations between bedtime eating or drinking, sleep duration and wake after sleep onset: findings from the American Time Use Survey. Br J Nutr. Published online September 13, 2021. doi:10.1017/S0007114521003597
Zhao, M., Tuo, H., Wang, S., & Zhao, L. (2020, June 25). The effects of dietary nutrition on sleep and sleep disorders. Mediators of Inflammation. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2020/3142874/
Brea has a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition & a Master’s degree in Nutrition & Food from Texas Women’s University. She has been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for 4 years thus far. She is very passionate about uplifting others by empowering them with information regarding well-rounded nutritional intake and lifestyle practices and how they can impact overall health & wellness. She is currently a Nutritionist in the Customer Experience department at Lumen the world’s first metabolic tracking device through the breath. She has experience in a variety of nutrition-related matters, including nutrition counseling and developing community nutritional initiatives.