Can you believe how quickly time flies? We are already several weeks into the New Year (Happy New Year!) and the big thing on many people’s minds is “jeez I have already bailed on my resolutions!”. If this isn’t you – congratulations! If it is don’t despair, you are amongst the majority and with some goal setting and coaching, you will get where you want to be by the end of the year.

For most people the New Year is when they plan to get healthier and that often involves weight loss. Everyone knows that in order to lose weight your caloric intake must be lower than your caloric expenditure. However there are a few other factors at play and one of them is hormonal balance achieved by something we spend a significant portion of our lives doing… sleeping!

It may seem counterintuitive that sleeping will help you lose weight. I get questions like “aren’t I just resting and decreasing my metabolic rate?”.  Well yes, it is true that when you sleep your metabolism decreases to a rest state however so many other important processes take place when you are sleeping which help to prevent over-eating and balance your hormones during the day.

There is mounting evidence from both mouse models and human studies that chronic sleep loss increases the risk of obesity and weight gain.

Sleep restriction has been shown to have to following effects:

  • decreased glucose tolerance leading to increased levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood stream which is a risk factor for mortality
  • decreased insulin sensitivity which means when sugar is in your blood stream your cells are less efficient using the hormone insulin to get sugar into your cells
  • increased evening concentrations of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that over extended periods of time signals the body to increase blood sugar levels, store fat particularly around the belly area, and breakdown muscle
  • increased levels of ghrelin AKA the hunger hormone
  • decreased levels of leptin AKA the satiety hormone
  • increased hunger and appetite

Häggström, Mikael. "Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014". Wikiversity Journal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 20018762.


A more recent study showed that even our intestinal bacterial cells have a circadian rhythm and if we have a disrupted sleep cycle, such as those with shift work, it can predispose us to dysbiosis! The unhappy bacteria then can cause endocrine changes which further leads to… you guessed it… weight gain.

Therefore if you are looking to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle you must aim for 7½ to 8 hours of sleep per night.

For now I suggest you make a goal for the next 30 days to do the following to improve your sleep:

  1. Turn off all screens at least 2 hours before bed and sleep in a completely dark room since light causes your suprachiasmatic nucleus (the part of your brain responsible for your circadian rhythm) to signal a decrease melatonin output which will impair your ability to fall asleep and your quality of sleep
  2. Stop eating at least 3 hours before bed time – digesting food during sleep does not allow for a rejuvenating rest. If you are truly hungry before bed have a small amount of protein and/or fat  (e.g. 10 almonds) to ensure your blood sugar is stable and low blood sugar doesn’t wake you up
  3. No caffeine after noon – you would be surprised how many people are in denial that they are caffeine sensitive! Are you one of them?

Book an appointment with me if you need to work on improving your sleep and/or have had difficultly with weight loss in the past. We can look into your medical history in detail to find out what is the root cause of your sleep disturbance and put together a plan to get those 8 hours of sleep!

Yours in health,


Nicole Bobala, ND




Leproult, Rachel, and Eve Van Cauter. "Role of sleep and sleep loss in hormonal release and metabolism." (2009): 11-21.

Sawamoto, R., T. Nozaki, T. Furukawa, T. Tanahashi, C. Morita, T. Hata, G. Komaki, and N. Sudo. "Higher sleep fragmentation predicts a lower magnitude of weight loss in overweight and obese women participating in a weight-loss intervention." Nutrition & diabetes 4, no. 10 (2014): e144.

Thaiss, Christoph A., David Zeevi, Maayan Levy, Gili Zilberman-Schapira, Jotham Suez, Anouk C. Tengeler, Lior Abramson et al. "Transkingdom control of microbiota diurnal oscillations promotes metabolic homeostasis." Cell 159, no. 3 (2014): 514-529.