Is Lack of Sleep Affecting Your Metabolism?

February 6, 2015 Updated: February 6, 2015

Over the years, many studies have shown how a lack of quality sleep can have a major impact on our health. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called insufficient sleep a “public health epidemic,” noting that over 50 million American adults suffer from a sleep-related disorder.

“Sleep is increasingly recognized as important to public health, with sleep insufficiency linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors. … Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity,” the CDC website states.

Sleep is important to reset, repair, and rejuvenate the body’s systems. Yet in a national survey conducted between 2005 and 2007, nearly one-third of those surveyed said they get six hours of sleep or less—instead of the recommended seven to eight hours—on a regular basis.

Many things, including lifestyle factors such as stress and anxiety, nutritional factors such as dehydration and vitamin deficiency, and health factors such as pain, sleep apnea, and even some medications can contribute to sleep deprivation. And this, in turn, can have significant impact on your metabolism and overall well-being.

Sleep and Metabolism

The process of metabolism enables our bodies to convert the food we eat into energy for optimal functioning and health. Our bodies immediately utilize the fuel generated through this process and store any extra for future use, much of it as fat.

When your body doesn’t get enough rest, it will go into stress mode, which can easily contribute to weight gain and sluggish metabolism.

Lack of sleep can directly impact the hormones that regulate blood sugar, fat storage, appetite, and feeling satisfied. For example, an elevated ghrelin hormone leads to increased appetite, decreased leptin prevents a person from feeling full, reduced insulin secretion results in blood sugar irregularities, and increased cortisol contributes to greater fat storage.

A weakened metabolism, in turn, can make you feel more tired and increase your risk for obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

Finding Balance

Although genetics play a significant role in how well each person’s metabolism works, so does lifestyle. Along with sleep, factors such as eating habits, dietary choices, stress levels, and exercise can all impact how well your body executes its essential functions.

So, what can you do to boost your metabolism and get better sleep amid a hectic lifestyle? Taking an integrative approach to mind-body-spirit wellness can help you create an optimal balance for your health and overall well-being.

Here are some tips to help you on your way:

1. Eat small meals and snack more frequently for sustained energy and blood sugar levels.

2. Decrease or eliminate highly processed foods, as well as those containing sugar, artificial sweeteners, and chemical preservatives.

3. Opt for more leafy greens and lean protein. Keep it simple, natural, and fresh.

4. Incorporate healthy fats, like those found in avocado and fish, into your diet. Minimize solid fats like margarine or lard, eliminating saturated and trans fats.

5. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Decrease your intake of caffeine and alcohol.

6. Eliminate tobacco use and minimize exposure to environmental toxins.

7. Stay mobile throughout the day and maintain a regular exercise routine.

8. Remember to take time out to lower your stress level, relax, and have fun.

Victoria Ann Diaz is a certified integrative health and life coach and graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. In her Life Balance Health Coach practice, she supports clients with a mindful-living approach to health and wellness. For more information visit: