What’s Sleep Got to Do With Weight Loss?

BY Clean Team TIMENovember 5, 2015 PRINT

We need sleep for many reasons such as repairing the body, keeping the immune system strong, and enabling mental clarity and focus. But sleep is also crucial in maintaining a healthy weight and supporting healthy weight loss.

We’ve seen this with many of our clients. Overweight and looking to establish long-term healthy habits to support their weight-loss goals, they start on the Clean Program.

After a few weeks they come back and say that they are “doing everything right” but the weight is not budging. After we dig a little deeper into their situation, we discover that while they’re supporting the body with great foods, supplements, and exercise, they are skimping on the restorative sleep that allows the body to repair and ultimately release weight.

How Does Sleep Affect Weight Loss?

Let’s look at two specific ways that sleep affects our weight.

1. Elimination

It’s no coincidence that most people naturally feel the urge to have a bowel movement in the morning. While we sleep, the liver is breaking down toxins, excess hormones, and metabolites to be eliminated. At the same time, the colon is busy forming solid waste so all these items have an easy vessel to exit the body. When you wake up in the morning (or soon after), your body is ready to release that waste.

If we don’t get enough regular sleep, this process can suffer leading quickly to constipation. Constipation is one of the main ways the weight loss process is held up.

If you’re not having good daily bowel movements, it can be very difficult for the body to let go of extra weight.

2. Hormones

Sleep plays a key role for our hormones. When we don’t get enough of it, the hormones that control our cravings and help us feel satisfied after eating are disrupted. We may become more likely to crave unhealthy foods and over-eat.

Let’s look at few of the hormones that are most easily influenced by lack of sleep and how they play a role in weight loss.


Studies have shown that even one night of restricted sleep can increase levels of our stress hormone, cortisol. Excess cortisol has been linked to increased appetite, cravings for sweets and carbs, and weight gain. If continued, chronic lack of sleep and excess cortisol can cause the body to hold onto fat, and ultimately increase the risk of obesity.

Sleep restriction is known to increase ghrelin levels and decrease leptin levels. This means that after even one night of inadequate sleep, you’ll feel hungrier, have more cravings (Choreograph/iStock)


Ghrelin and Leptin

These two hormones are responsible for our feelings of hunger and satiety. Ghrelin is known as the “Hunger Hormone.” This is the hormone that gives the signal that you’re hungry and it’s time to eat. Leptin is the hormone that lets you know when you’ve had enough to eat and puts the brakes on your hunger.

Sleep restriction is known to increase ghrelin levels and decrease leptin levels. This means that after even one night of inadequate sleep, you’ll feel hungrier, have more cravings (especially for sweets and carbs), and are more likely to over-eat.


Not only does lack of sleep increase our likelihood of eating sweets and refined carbs, but it also impairs our ability to handle these carbs and sugars properly.

Insulin is the hormone that helps move glucose (sugar) into our cells to feed our muscles and to be used as energy. Inadequate sleep impairs this process and can cause insulin resistance. This means that insulin can’t do its job. Glucose remains left in the bloodstream and gets stored as fat instead of being used for energy.

Just like with cortisol, ghrelin and leptin, even a single night of sleep restriction can induce insulin resistance.

Final Thoughts

While quality sleep is not the only factor that influences our weight and well-being, it plays a very important role in both.

If you are working on your weight, we encourage you to pay close attention to your sleep cycle, and to put into practice some of the tools we’ve been talking about all month like how to use light to improve your sleep and how to create the perfect sleep environment.

This article was originally published on The Clean Program, founded by cardiologist and detox specialist, Dr. Alejandro Junger, helps people detoxify their systems to restore and maintain optimal health.

Clean Team
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