Exercise’s influence on sleep, success and healthy weight

no exercise vs exercise_graphc

The graphic representation of an article by Travis Bradberry titled „12 Lessons you either Learn or Regret It Forever“ published June 22 2016  at www.INC.com. Here is the link. Look for No. 8 „Schedule exercise and sleep“.

Now, you may say: I don’t exercise but I have no trouble sleeping. Actually, I sleep like a bear. To which I respond: congratulation. I hope it continues to stay this way. Then sleep deprivation, or chronic partial sleep loss (such as just regularly missing 30 min of your needed 7 hours of sleep) can potentially lead to weight (fat) gain, negatively impact your food choices and health behavior.

How chronic sleep deprivation affects weight:

  • metabolism slows down (you burn fewer calories; your ability to burn food slows as well)
  • appetite speeds up (you take in more calories especially from snacks)

Your body considers sleep loss as stress.

This stress leads to rise in cortisol levels, and most of us know out of experience that our body, in order to prepare for stress and unforeseen events, wants to load up on food, hence increased hunger. But there are other metabolic changes that contribute to increased appetite, namely 2 hormones: ghrelin & leptin.

Think of leptin as stop sign/ red light (I’m full) and think of ghrelin as right of way/ green light (I want to eat),

Chronic sleep deprivation (even by a few minutes) leads to a 15-20% LOSS of leptin and a ghrelin increase by up to 20%!

But it’s not as if you are craving or eating more vegetables or fruit.

Chronic sleep deprivation actually leads to craving comfort food. 

Why? Well, we all desire to be in a more relaxed, calm state but the rise in cortisol prevents that. To counteract this „stress“, our body senses the need to increase serotonin levels, which help us relax, which give us a feeling of calm. The easiest way to calm down? Music, a massage, a walk? Yes….but we humans crave carbohydrates (our comfort food) instead. This is also the reason many of us crave carbs  and high fatty food during high-stress situations.

Alternatively, make sure you start your day de-stressed!

Bottom line: if you are trying to lose weight and experience (ignore) sleep deprivation you are playing a losing game! You need to be that much more committed, fight that many more cravings and urges that it often feels like a losing battle.


Don’t believe me? During a study, volunteers slept 5.5 hours at night. While their normal meals remained the same, their caloric intake from snacks increased.

On average, between 11 pm and 7 am, the average caloric intake from snacks increased by 1,000kcal (!). 65% of these calories came from carbohydrates.

Normally (!) these people would sleep on average 6.5-7 hours per night. Thus, by losing ~ 1 hour of sleep, their snack intake changed drastically which clearly can contribute to weight gain.


And while we know sleep is important, sleep deprivation leads to decreased motivation for and actually decreased levels of exercise……


Yet, exercise habits have a MUCH GREATER influence on self-control, self-esteem and body-image satisfaction – due to the release of endorphines- than sleep. And since we know we sleep better when we exercise the

solution to chronic sleep loss should be easy: exercise regularly and go to bed on time!

You regularly experience cravings and or sleep loss?

  • Don’t ignore chronic sleep loss (find a healthy sleep ritual that allows you to get much needed shut-eye)
  • Understand what you want: socialize or watch TV OR reach your health & weight goals? If you know what you want and WHY you want it the choice is clear.
  • If you do experience occasional sleep loss, take mini-naps, actively control your cravings (go for healthier alternatives by watching your snack intake), and exercise. Go for long walks, run up the stairs, join a yoga class, visit the sauna or steam bath, write down your troubling thoughts. Relax, and of course turn off all electronics early, don’t go to bed with your lap top or smart phone. Listen to calming music instead. Don’t drink alcohol or eat too late at night……..you know what and what not to do – you just need to do it. It’s your choice….what do you choose?


Credits: Icons were taken from The Noun Project (creative commons): “Exercise”, National Park Service Collection, “Sleep” by Les vieux garçons, “Night” By Curve (FR),  “Insomnia” By Nicole Sadenwater, “Think” by Gregor Črešnar, “Brain power” by Icon Island, “High five” by Keith Mulvin, “Confident” by Shreya, “Fitness Goals” by Jason D. Rowley, “TV” by Jems Mayor, “Lock” by Alex Tai, “Stress” by Aenne Brielmann, “Depression” by Stephanie Heendrickxen, “Unsure” by Samy Menai, “Brain” by Florent Artis


Thank you for reading. Please feel free to like, share, and comment.

Other articles that might be of interest to you:

Troubles falling asleep? Healthy sleep habits and the role of deep breathing on falling asleep

Stop blaming your hormones – weight gain is simpler than that

Detox, juice diets, and fasting for weight loss – hit or miss?

Healthy me, healthy lifestyle, healthy environment


Veröffentlicht in Behavior, awareness, society und verschlagwortet mit , , , .