How Your Natural Biorhythms Turn Sleep Into Weight Loss

by Tiffany Kail on June 15, 2013

Our sleeping and waking pattern might be just as important as our eating pattern when it comes to weight gain or loss.  If we were out in a natural environment, we would wake with the sun, which triggers our hunger.  We would then hunt or gather the food we need to survive.  When the sun sets, and we can no longer see our food sources, we curl up in a dark cave and sleep until the sun once again comes shining in.

Unfortunately, this natural waking/sleeping process no longer happens for most of us, leaving our biorhythms all jumbled up.  And, when our biorhythms are jumbled around, our sleep is disturbed.  And, when our sleep is disturbed, weight gain may occur.  Along with this, most of us are no longer hunting or gathering our food, either.  Our biorhythms and our eating habits are working against us.  How can we fix this without moving into a cave and eating off the land?

turn sleep into weight loss

The Sleep Scenario

There is no magic to the science of sleep and weight gain.  If you get enough sleep, you will feel better and function better.  The scenario is not hard to figure out.  If you drag yourself out of bed late and dead tired from lack of sleep, chances are breakfast will be bypassed, you won’t pack a healthy lunch or snacks for later in the day, and you’ll skip the gym or your walk after work.  It’s that simple.  The day will start out with a doughnut and coffee.  Lunch will be whatever you can scrounge out of the snack machine, and that birthday cake in the office lunchroom will be missing one more piece come 3 o’clock.  You just completed another day of unhealthy eating because you didn’t sleep well.

If, however, you get a good night’s sleep, rise early feeling awake and aware, you’ll have time (and energy) to grab a healthy breakfast.  While you’re in the kitchen, you’ll put together a few snacks for the day and even a good lunch.  You can skip the snack machine and pass on the cake.  And, because you’re well rested and well fed, you’ll have the energy and desire to finish the day with a brisk walk or some time at the gym.

The Sleep Science

You’ll notice two terms more and more often now when reading about the connection between sleep deprivation and weight gain.  The hormones ‘ghrelin’ and ‘leptin’ have become well known and well documented as having a significant effect on weight gain due to lack of sleep.  How do these hormones work?  Simply put, ghrelin is involved in telling us we’re hungry, while leptin helps tell us when we’re full.

Recent studies in subjects deprived of sleep for just two nights show a significant drop in leptin levels (weakening the ‘full’ signal), while ghrelin levels rose (strengthening the ‘hungry’ signal.)  Imagine if you are sleep deprived for weeks, months, or even years how these hormones would affect your eating habits.

Another hormone which plays a part in the connection between sleep and weight is the stress hormone, cortisol. In studies where subjects are deprived of sleep, cortisol levels rise, which the body reads as a threat to survival, translating into ‘time to store fat.’

And, yet another hormone comes into play; this time the feel-good hormone, dopamine.  This hormone is produced in the brain when fat-rich and sugary foods are ingested.  Studies show that people who severely limit fat and sugar from their diet can suffer anxiety, nervousness, and irritation.  When healthy fat and slow-burning carbs are reintroduced, the subjects experience a drop in anxiety, nervousness, sleeplessness, and they generally feel better.  Craving foods that trigger dopamine production just makes sense, especially at night.  But, it also thickens waistlines.

Even without testing for these hormone levels at all, we can still find studies that prove a connection between lack of sleep and weight gain.  In one such study, the subjects were found to eat around 400 more calories per day when they slept only 4 hours a night as opposed to when they slept 7 or 8 hours a night.

With studies being conducted all the time, we’re learning more about how our natural biorhythms are skewed by sleep habits, and how when this happens, we set ourselves up for unhealthy weight gain.  Between snacking out of boredom when we’re up late, to hormone confusion, to craving foods that turn to fat, it helps to understand how we gain weight.  Healthy sleep patterns lead to healthy biorhythms which lead to healthy eating.  All this combined could very well lead to weight loss.  It may be just the right time to give a good night’s rest a try for your health.

photo credit: RelaxingMusic

About the author...

 is a personal trainer, certified yoga instructor, and certified health coach, and most importantly, a mom. She's a proponent of the clean eating approach because it's a complete lifestyle solution and she's seen her clients thrive on it more than any other healthy eating plan.

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