How Sleep Impacts Your Fat Burning Hormones & 7 Strategies for a Great Night’s Sleepby Jj Virgin on February 5, 2013
Your neighbor’s barking dog, along with the construction crew down the street (which seems to be working 24 hours a day), kept you tossing and turning till 3 a.m. last night.
Is it a coincidence that the scales aren’t budging this morning, even though you just perfectly completed cycle 1 of The Virgin Diet?
Research at the University of Chicago shows even if you follow a healthy diet and exercise program, not getting 8 hours of sleep every night increases your obesity risk. Yep, it’s that important.
Even if you’re following The Virgin Diet to the letter, not getting 7 – 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep every night can stall fast fat loss. That’s because numerous hormones become out of whack when you don’t get your sleep quota, which can stall fast fat loss and make you a caffeinated mess. Let’s look at a few of those hormones.
Lack of sleep negatively impacts your hunger hormones
It’s no coincidence that you’re experiencing an intense craving for Entenmann’s crumb coffee cake after only 5 hours of sleep last night.
Ghrelin, a hormone that commands your brain to eat now, increases when you sleep poorly. To balance ghrelin levels, get a good night’s sleep and then start your day with The Virgin Diet Shake. One study showed a high-protein breakfast reduces ghrelin levels so you stay full and focused for hours.
Leptin, on the other hand, helps put the brakes on the brownie cheesecake. When you don’t sleep, you become more leptin resistant and your brain doesn’t get the message to step away from the dessert.
Lack of sleep increases fat storage
Sleep also affects your ultimate fat-storing hormone, insulin. I’ve received a lot of questions asking whether The Virgin Diet is suitable for people with type 2 diabetes. It is not only suitable, it is essential to control insulin levels. When you eat the whole, unprocessed foods I recommend in The Virgin Diet, you stabilize blood sugar levels, which eliminates the spike and crash that leaves you hungry and craving donuts your co-worker brought in.
Chronically elevated insulin, on the other hand, makes it more difficult to burn fat. The wrong foods aren’t the only thing that raise insulin levels and make you insulin resistant. Long-term sleep deprivation can also make your cells insulin resistant, leading to higher fasting insulin levels. Besides impairing fat burning, these high insulin levels can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Lack of sleep lowers your fountain-of-youth hormone
You might discover the fountain of youth in your sleep. Not in your dreams, but with human growth hormone (GH), which prevents aging, builds muscle, promotes fast fat loss, and boosts immunity. No wonder celebrities spend thousands a month on GH injections!
Sleep helps your body naturally boost GH to help you repair and rebuild. No surprise, then, that a study in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience found that less sleep means you release less GH.
Lack of sleep raises cortisol, your stress hormone
High levels of your hormone cortisol break down muscle and store fat. Your cortisol levels remain high for longer periods when you don’t sleep well.
High cortisol burns up your energy-assisting B vitamins and you can’t make the neurotransmitters you need to sleep well. Cortisol also lowers serotonin, the feel-good hormone your brain eventually converts to melatonin for good sleep.
The cortisol/ caffeine/ fat storing connection
All bets are when you don’t sleep well, you’ll stop by your nearest Starbucks before work and grab a giant sugar-loaded coffee for an early-morning boost. (Your sleep-deprived lapse of judgment will probably also make you succumb to a low-fat blueberry muffin.)
You might get a temporary jolt, but by early afternoon you’ve hit your second low, so you make another run for your caffeine hook-up.
Here’s the deal. Just one cup of coffee can raise cortisol levels 30% for an hour. Additionally, caffeine can elevate cortisol levels in your blood for 18 hours. That means if you’re on the java cycle all day, you continually elevate cortisol levels and store fat.
Ironically, the caffeine that gives you that temporary boost from sleep deprivation also makes you sleep deprived. Caffeine’s half life is 12 hours, which explains why you’re still revved up at 9 p.m. even though you shut off your computer and are settling in with a hot bath.
7 Strategies for a Great Night’s Sleep
To burn fat, build muscle, rev up your metabolism, and feel your best all day, you need 7 – 9 hours of quality sleep every night. It’s not always easy, but here are 7 ways I make it happen:
- Power down and unwind. You need to prepare for a solid night’s sleep. The most effective way is to power down an hour before you hit the sack. That “urgent” email from your boss can wait till the morning, and trust me, you’re not missing anything with late-night reruns and talk shows. Put your iPhone on “Do Not Disturb” mode and otherwise turn off electronics an hour before bed.
- Calm your mind. So you’ve carved out that hour before bed sans electronics. Replace the hour you spent watching Sex and the City reruns with a mind-calming routine. Meditation, a hypnosis download, a hot bath with chamomile tea and a good (not great) book, or deep breathing: find what works for you to slowly shut down your mental chatter so you can drift into a solid night’s sleep.
- Avoid a nightcap. That second glass of pinot noir might knock you out, but it will also make you dehydrated and sleep poorly. If you have a drink with or after dinner, pair it with 2 glasses of water. Just don’t use alcohol as an excuse to knock out earlier.
- Limit caffeine. Especially if you’re a slow metabolizer, a mid-afternoon java jolt can leave you jittery before bed. Keep the caffeine to morning hours and switch to decaf green tea by afternoon.
- Use a sleep aid if you need it. Your pineal gland secretes melatonin, but as you get older you’re making less of this circadian rhythm-regulating hormone. Melaton-3 can help replenish melatonin levels, which especially comes in handy for jet lag or traveling to a different time zone. To reduce anxiety and promote calm, I use Sedaplus®, a synergistic blend of valerian, chamomile, and other herbs to help you gently drift into sleep.
- Stop eating 3 hours before bed. The 11 p.m. siren call of Ben & Jerrys inevitably crashes your blood sugar (making you an excellent fat storer) and cuts into quality sleep. Follow The Virgin Diet Plate for dinner and call it quits for the day. If you’re hungry before bed, you didn’t do dinner right. You might be thirsty too. A study at the University of Washington found that 1 glass of water before bed curbed hunger for everyone who tried it.
- Keep exercise early (but don’t skip out!). I love my 4 x 4 Burst Training Workout to blast fat in just 15 minutes a day. It’s intense and gets the fast fat loss results you want. But exercising too late in your day can leave you wired before bed. Keep exercise during the morning or early afternoon hours.