The Relationship Between Sleep and Weight

sleepy woman waking up

Scientists are beginning to pinpoint a deep connection between irregular sleep patterns and health risks, particularly in the form of weight gain. Find out how you can tune into your own natural body clock to slim down, maintain good health and feel more energized overall!

Go with Your Internal Body Clock
It is so important for us to be true to our natural body clock – or circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are the (approximately) 24-hour natural cycles that govern the body by regulating appetite, sleep and mood. Chinese medicine has always believed that these cycles are controlled largely by light, or the cycles of the sun. Energy should be exerted during the day, while the nighttime is meant for rest and recuperation. Scientific research has found that the body has a natural rhythm that should be followed for optimal health.

Do You Have “Social Jet Lag”
A study by European researchers found that when we have a hard time waking up at an imposed time—at the sound of our weekday alarm clock, for example – it means that our circadian rhythms are not in alignment with our daily schedules. This often occurs because many of us have two different sleep schedules – the early morning work schedule and the stay-up-late, sleep-in schedule on the weekend. Researchers from University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology have even coined the term “social jet lag” to describe these mismatched sleep schedules.

In the European study, 65,000 adults were surveyed, and those who were living with two different sleep schedules were three times more likely to become overweight! And that’s not all. As the differences between the two schedules became greater, the overall BMI (or body mass index) of individuals rose. Over a longer period of time, risks for cancer and diabetes increase, too.

You’re probably wondering, “How does sleeping in on Saturday make me gain weight?” When we live with such disparate sleep schedules, we are living in disharmony with the natural rhythms. On a deep cellular level, the metabolic functions are interrupted. We end up doing activities that our bodies aren’t prepared for—like eating when our bodies aren’t able to digest food properly – and this negatively affects how food is incorporated into our body’s fat content, increasing our risk of obesity.

Stay in Synch
Parents know kids function best on a regular schedule for eating and sleeping, so it should be no surprise that it is the same for us adults! Choose one activity that you will do at the same time every day, such as eating breakfast at 7:00 am, meditating at noon, exercising at 6:30pm, or getting into bed at 10:00pm. If you are up to it, choose two or more activities to do at the same time every day, preferably one cognitive and one physical, and your body will get even more practice at maintaining even more rhythm and stability, building a more solid foundation for your weight and metabolic function. When you are exercising your mind or body at the same time every day, your performance rate and brainpower will increase. And by exercising at the same time each day, you can establish a pattern, strengthening your performance at the particular time of day.