Why Your Sleep is Stalling Weight Loss

Sleep and Weight Loss… What’s the connection?! What would you rather do, sleep or exercise? I don’t know about you but I like to workout AND I like to sleep! Some days working out feels more important and other days sleep feels more important. When there are only so many hours in the day that you have to choose from, and you have some specific goals around weight loss AND you know you should be exercising… where do you draw the line… get up early and workout before work or get in that extra hour or two of Z’s? This is Sacramento CA Nutritionist Dani Conway with some important information on sleep and fat loss.

How many hours of sleep do you get? Or should the question be, “how many hours do you get away with?” Good sleep is essential for repair and regeneration as well as for balanced hormones. Sleep, rest and recovery have a direct link to your 24-hour circadian rhythm; i.e. your adrenal hormone cycle. When the sun rises, your cortisol levels peak and as the sun sets they taper off, reaching their lowest level three hours after dark. This daily and natural occurring fluctuation is intended to help your body know when to be active and when to rest.

“Insomnia” is a common complaint that I receive in my private practice at Nutrition the Natural Way. Insomnia means taking a long time to fall asleep, waking up many times throughout the night or waking up too early and having no luck falling back to sleep. If you feel like you have Insomnia, or sleep issues that just won’t budge, there are a handful of possible causes. Your hormones could be out of balance and you could be dealing with adrenal issues and not even know it. Digestion could be a problem. It could also be a bit simpler and there could be a blood sugar imbalance. I don’t mean that you’re diabetic. Eating the wrong foods for YOU can be the cause of this.

Note: If it is a negative hormone response, this is possible for men or women! Cortisol responses don’t discriminate. Men have hormones too!

Adrenal dysfunction plays a huge role in weight loss and metabolic function which are regulated by your Hormone System. Excessive cardio mixed with a lack of sleep is an adrenal recipe for disaster. Be sure to stay tuned for your next fitness article, “Are you doing too much Cardio?!”

This will actually give you the opposite results than what you’re looking for. “Sleep loss is associated with striking alterations in hormone levels that regulate the appetite and may be a contributing factor to obesity,” says Michael Thorpy, MD, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. “Anyone making a commitment to lose weight should probably consider a parallel commitment to getting more sleep.”

10pm to 6am would be the ideal hours to sleep. The normal sleep cycle consists of two different kinds of sleep: REM and non-REM. Most people have four to five cycles of each per night. There are some specific things that take place when you sleep… sleeping between the hours of 10pm and 2am allows physical repair to take place in your body. Immune cells are released to seek out and destroy cancer cells, bacteria, viruses and other harmful agents. That is huge! If cortisol levels rise during this phase, maximum recovery will not take place. *In general cortisol levels enter extremely high or extremely low ranges during adrenal exhaustion.* Sleeping between 2am and 6am allows our bodies to enter a stage of psychic regeneration. During this time the immune system is supported by chemicals released by the brain.

So as you can see there are definite biochemical advantages to sleeping during these “restful” hours. If these 3 or 4 hour windows of physical repair and psychic regeneration are continuously compromised, moderate to severe adrenal exhaustion will develop and it is possible that further health problems may develop.

Here’s a great solution for you! If your schedule consistently calls you to choose between sleep and exercise, then trade off. Get some extra sleep for a couple of days and then workout for a day or two; then sleep for a couple days, and so on. Alternate back and forth to avoid the end of the week crash where you are completely exhausted and feeling like you can’t do anything! Most importantly… don’t feel guilty about missing your workout. That will contribute to more unnecessary stress. Keep your mind at ease and your mind, body and spirit will thank you for it!

I feel it is important for me to share some of my personal experience with you, so that you know you’re not alone! Ten years ago I really thought I could run on empty! It didn’t feel like “empty” at the time but looking back there was definitely no gas in the tank. AND, I chose never to fill up the tank either because I thought I could just keep going.

One of the major issues I had was food cravings. Can you relate?! On days where I had less than five hours of sleep, these cravings were seemingly unmanageable. Looking back now, they would get better if I had more rest though I didn’t put two and two together at the time.
So, I am here to put two and two together for you, SLEEP, SLEEP, SLEEP! If you don’t, your body can’t repair or distress or lose weight, and most importantly, REJUVENATE!

I invite you to take the “Sleep Challenge.” Work towards my recommended sleep hours of 10pm to 6am, when possible. If you currently go to bed at 1am then aim for 12:30am for a week. Then try midnight for a week, and so on. Note how do you feel and what changes take place. Are you finding it any easier to achieve those weight loss goals? Let me know what happens… I want to hear about your results! Feel free to comment below, or email me to Info@FitFoodWellness.com.

…Ensure that you practice good sleeping habits! Sleep in a dark, quiet room. Keep the temperature cool; though not too cold that you would be uncomfortable when you’re awake. Don’t be miffed… getting the proper amount of sleep is not a ticket to eat whatever you want!


If you or someone you know is completely frustrated, with sleep, feel free to contact me so we can work on this together. Functional testing may be a good option for someone who already has their diet dialed in to find out why sleep is a problem, or why someone is not losing weight or reaching their desired goals. I assist clients in balancing those hormones along with teaching how to implement changes that can help get you to and maintain your desired goals.

Good luck!

Email me any time with questions on dani@nutritionthenaturalway.com.