What is the Connection Between Sleep and Energy Balance?

Energy balance is an important factor when it comes to weight control, and the amount of sleep an individual gets can directly affect that balance. Although a successful weight loss strategy should focus on diet and exercise, it may be necessary to modify sleep schedules in order to maximize the results. This is because energy balance affects everything from appetite hormones to metabolic processes.

Energy balance is essentially the relationship between how much energy moves in and out of the body. The energy taken in comes in the form of calories consumed, and the energy released is the amount of calories the body uses for physical activity, food digestion and rest. The balance between the two determines whether weight is gained, lost or maintained. Sleep deprivation can negatively affect how the body’s energy is regulated.

When a person is sleep deprived, the metabolism instantly slows down. The average amount of energy expended, or calories burned, throughout the day decreases. Energy expenditure is reduced in general with a lack of sleep, but it significantly affects the number of calories burned after mealtimes. This sets the stage for quicker fat storage, particularly if a person doesn’t exercise shortly after eating.

Reduced sleep can also stimulate the need to amplify day-to-day food intake. This is due to the appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin boosts the appetite and increases fat production and retention. Leptin sends the message to stop eating. The levels of this hormone are high at nighttime and drop during the daytime when food energy is needed. Sleep deprivation causes ghrelin levels to increase and leptin levels to decrease, which leads to overeating.

There are ways to improve poor sleep patterns in order to optimize daily energy balance. One of the best methods is to create a regular sleep schedule. Setting a fixed bedtime and waking up at the same time each day can promote more restful sleep. It’s also a good idea to avoid light-based activities before bedtime. This includes watching television, spending time on the computer or phone, or reading by a nightlight.

Regular exercise can also encourage quality sleep, but exercising right before bedtime may cause insomnia. Eating a big meal before lying down can also disrupt sleep. To allow the body to reach a restful state, it’s best to avoid caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee to stay awake for the last stretch of the day, it’s more beneficial to move around and get the blood pumping. A 15 minute nap during the day may also help.

Following a proper diet and exercise schedule each day can help maintain a healthy energy balance, but improving sleep patterns is equally as important. The goal is to get at least seven hours of sleep each night and to get more quality rest. By making some lifestyle adjustments and correcting poor sleep behaviors, it is possible to regulate energy balance and ultimately combat unwanted weight gain.