If you’ve been struggling with losing those last 10 pounds, belly fat, or have been diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome or Obesity, your sleep habits are likely one of the variables holding you back from achieving fast weight loss and normalized blood sugar levels.
How Sleep Loss Affects Your Health
It’s very clear that individuals who have poor sleep habits or night shift work have a higher prevalence of visceral adipose tissue (the fat around your organs, which is the more dangerous type of fat), belly fat, as well as other metabolic disorders. Research shows that belly fat comes with serious health risks including cardiovascular disease, Type II Diabetes, and Cancer.
We know that poor sleep is linked to visceral adipose fat, belly fat and obesity in general and that individuals who sleep less than 5 hours have more metabolic disturbances and more visceral adipose tissue. According to research, 30 – 40% of us are sleeping less than 6 hours per night. Poor sleep hygiene and sleep loss (ie. less than 5 hours of sleep per night) is linked to a 46% increase of developing diabetes compared to those who sleep 8 hours per night.
What Is The Circadian Clock System?
There is now a huge body of evidence in the research literature that explains the connection between our sleep habits and our belly fat and visceral fat. Researchers refer to the system that governs our patterns of sleep/wake cycles and our metabolic physiology as our “Circadian Clock System” or our “Circadian Rhythm”. The molecular mechanisms of our circadian clock system has been detailed out and we now know how our sleep/wake cycles impact so many aspects of our satiety, appetite, and hormones. With this new information, we can modulate our circadian clock system to balance our hormones, eliminate cravings, and get more out of our exercise routine.
Our organs, including the liver, pancreas, GI tract, heart, adrenals, and gonads are all metabolic tissues that have genes that are regulated by the rise and fall of the sun. In the morning, lights cycles from the sun are designed to increase our desire to eat and move around. Our GI tract, pancreas, gallbladder, adrenals and muscles are very active at this time.
In the evening as the sun goes down, we want to restore and recover, not think about food and movement. This is also the time when our immune system becomes the most active. Individuals with autoimmune disorders tend to have immune cells which are dramatically up-regulated at night, which disrupts their ability to sleep and increases the amount of pain that they wake up with in the morning.
Why Is Sleep So Important For Weight Loss?
Sleep is a time of rest and rebuilding for our bodies. Our immune system is very active in burning fat during sleep. If we don’t sleep well, we don’t burn fat well.
Sleep hygiene refers to all the things that contribute to irregular sleep patterns such as lights, TV, electronics, and EMF’s. To get the most our of our sleep, we want to make sure our bedroom is as dark as possible and that we keep all electronics as far away as possible.
It is also very important to go to sleep at the same time every single night regardless of how many hours of total sleep you get each night. Not going to sleep at the same time every night throws off our circadian rhythm.
There is a strong correlation between sleep loss and poor sleep hygiene with metabolic syndrome. We often see increased body mass index, increased waist circumference, and elevated triglycerides and these are the biomarkers we want to tract to assess metabolic health.
Consequences of Sleep Loss and Poor Sleep Hygiene
The major metabolic consequences of sleep loss and poor sleep hygiene include:
• Increased cravings for sugary foods and carbohydrates due to altered satiety hormones
• Tendency to eat more calories later in the evening
• Eating more pre dinner and post dinner snacks
• Insulin resistance
• Altered sex hormones
• Impaired fat burning
How to Exploit The Circadian Rhythm Of Fat Burning
Hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, and testosterone are highest in the morning and help us get moving. As the day progresses into the evening hours, these hormones lower and we transition into rest and recover mode. This makes the morning the best time to do aerobic training. Our mitochondria are also more activated during the hours we are sleeping, which makes the best time to burn fat the first thing in the morning when our fat burning hormones are at their highest.
Late afternoon or early evening is the best time for weight training and circuit training since our anabolic hormones that maintain and build lean muscle mass are highest. Lean muscle mass is metabolically protective, anti-aging, and can increase our longevity.
Morning (Light Cycle)
- Aerobic training on an empty stomach
- Mitochondrial fat burning peaks at night when exercising in the am on an empty stomach with caffeine
- Eat a majority of the days carbs and fats
- GI motility and digestive function at its peak
Night (Dark Cycle)
- Body temperature peaks between 4 and 6 pm
- Best time for resistance/weight training (most anabolic time)
- Avoid carbs in the afternoon and evening
- Avoid alcohol in the evening
- Insulin resistance increases as the day progresses = more calories stored as fat
- GI motility and digestion slows in evening and at night
How To Use Carb Timing For Enhanced Fat Loss
We get progressively insulin resistant as the day goes on which makes the morning the best time to eat our carbs. As the day goes on into the evening, we want to limit our carbs due to this change in insulin resistance. Ideally, the best time for carb intake is pre and post workout as this is when our insulin sensitivity is at its highest.
Morning is also the best time to eat our fats as they are very satiating and our gallbladder function, which allows us to digest fats, is at its peak. Too much fat or alcohol later in the evening can disrupt our circadian rhythm.
Summary Of How to Eat For Fat Loss
• Morning is a time to eat, evening is a time to burn
• Gastrointestinal motility is highest in the morning
• Insulin sensitivity is highest in the morning
• Fat absorption is highest in the morning
• Stick with protein and veggies in then evening
Stress Reduction and Sleep Hygiene Key Takeaways
• Turn off the lights, computers, and TVs around 8 pm
• Strive to go to bed at same time every night
• Avoid late night eating, alcohol, and caffeine in the evening
• Perform deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or HeartMath prior to bed
• Use blackout shades on bedroom windows and avoid all light exposure while sleeping
• Limit EMF exposure in your bedroom (ie. no TV in the bedroom, keep cell phones and other electronics out of the bedroom, plug in your alarm clock as far from your bed as possible, etc.)
• Ideal amount of sleep is 7 – 9 hours each night.
Nutrients to Support Optimal Sleep Patterns
If after incorporating the above tips you still feel you need additional help getting great nights sleep, here are some of the top nutrients you can use to improve your sleep cycles.
• Botanicals like magnolia, lemon balm, and passionflower
Sleep is your #1 ally to help you lose your belly fat fast, re-balance your hormones, and normalize your blood sugar levels. If you have been struggling to lose those last 10 pounds, or you just can’t seem to get your blood sugars under control, give these tips a try and let me know what you think.