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How Sleep Helps Metabolism, and How to Support Better Sleep

Natalie
Stein
May 24, 2022
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How Sleep Helps Metabolism, and How to Support Better Sleep
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In this article:

  • Sleep helps maintain normal metabolism, promote hormone balance, and repair cells.
  • Sleep deprivation can change metabolism and lead to hormonal imbalances. Being short on sleep changes fat and carbohydrate metabolism and increases hunger and appetite.
  • People who do not get enough sleep may have increased risk of diabetes, weight gain, and other conditions.
  • Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Tips to achieve that amount include following a bedtime routine, creating a healthy sleep environment, and tracking your sleep.
  • Lark can help you establish lifestyle habits to lose weight and improve health. The more you log, the more personalized your program can be.

Sleep is so much more than a luxury. It's part of a healthy lifestyle. Along with making you feel more energy and better able to focus, getting enough sleep is needed for normal metabolism.

Here are 8 effects of sleep deprivation on metabolism. You can read more in a review article published in the International Journal of Endocrinology. Then, find out how to get more quality sleep and use Lark to support that healthy habit.

1. Metabolism Slows

Sleep is necessary for maintaining a normal metabolism. When talking about weight loss, metabolism can refer to how fast your body uses energy. That is, how many calories do you burn? When you are short on sleep, your metabolism slows. That's not helpful for weight loss!

2. Glucose Metabolism Changes

Glucose is a type of carbohydrate that circulates in the bloodstream. Some cells in the body need glucose as a source of energy, but high levels of blood glucose, or blood sugar, are not healthy. 

Getting enough sleep is essential for normal blood sugar control. Skipping some sleep, even for one night, can impair glucose metabolism. It may be related to inflammation when you are low on sleep. There may be decreased sensitivity to insulin, which helps your body use glucose. And, hormonal imbalance related to sleep deprivation can contribute to higher blood sugar.

3. Diabetes Risk Increases

Blood glucose can rise after a single night of sleep deprivation, but what about long-term? Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, according to multiple studies. It appears that this link is stronger in men than in women.

4. Lipid Metabolism Changes

Do you want to lose body fat? Sleep more! Research published in the Journal of Lipid Researchasked participants to sleep for less than 5 hours a night for 4 nights. Then, these sleep-deprived ate a high-fat meal and it turns out that their blood lipid (fat) levels were lower than expected. That means that more fat was being stored as body fat! After a single full night of sleep, lipid metabolism improved, but didn't quite get back to normal.

5. Appetite Increases

Levels of various hormones change when you are short on sleep. These are examples.

  • Ghrelin increases, causing you to feel hungrier.
  • Leptin increases, leading to leptin resistance and eventually reduced satiety.
  • Orexin levels and function change, leading to increased appetite.

With these changes, you are likely to eat more, which can cause weight gain.

6. Carbohydrate Cravings Increase

Being tired may make high-carbohydrate foods look tastier. They may include sugar-sweetened foods, such as desserts and candy. They may include starchy foods, such as bread and pasta. They could include salty snack foods, such as chips and French fries. Eating too many of these high-carb, calorie-dense foods can lead to weight gain.

7. Stress Hormones Rise

Chronic stress can increase the risk of weight gain, partly because of higher levels of certain stress hormones. Sleep deprivation can lead to higher levels of hormones called cortisol and growth hormone. Their effects include increased fat storage and risk of weight gain.

Here are some tips for better sleep.

  • Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet environment.
  • Stop looking at screens of electronic devices, including your phone, at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Have a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine.
  • Avoid eating a large amount of food too close to bedtime.
  • Avoid coffee and other sources of caffeine for at least 6 hours before bedtime.

Lark has more information on sleep tips and sleep disorders. 

Getting enough sleep not only improves metabolism, but it supports health in other ways. Lark can help you establish healthy sleep habits. With Lark, you can log sleep, get tips on how to get more sleep and better quality sleep, and experience personalized coaching.

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