If you thought that under eye circles were the worst consequence for lack of sleep, then guess again! Not only will sleep facilitate our ability to concentrate and retain information but plays an important role in weight management.

First, lets take a look at the science of sleep. Specifically, how sleeping ensures that we are able to recover and restore our mind, body and spirit to handle the daily demands of life.

On average, sleep experts recommend that adults try to get a minimum of 49 hours of sleep per week. That is an average of 7 hours per night. A good night sleep is made up of many cycles lasting approximately 90-120minutes. An uninterrupted cycle is comprised of five phases: stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (rapid eye movement). These sleep stages are a continuously cycle, starting at stage 1 to REM and it repeats itself over and over until you wake up. The first sleep cycles each night contain relatively short REM periods that increase in length as the night progresses. In our REM stage we are in the deepest, most restorative stage of sleep therefore if you don’t receive enough of it, we tend to not feel tired the next day. If this continues to occur it leads to sleep debt that can cause muscle fatigue, memory lapses, impaired reaction time and mood swings.

How is this affecting my weight loss?

Sleep disturbances can be caused by many factors but in most cases it is a function of stress. Stress hormones like cortisol interrupt sleep affect many hormone and metabolic processes in the body. Chronic production of cortisol can lead to elevated levels of blood sugar causing an inflammatory response in the body that causes alterations in how we regulate insulin (sugar regulator). Habitually interrupted sleep and or sleep debt can render insulin effectiveness. Insulin insensitivity affects how well your body can take in glucose and supply it to our cells for energy. When your body doesn’t uptake glucose properly you feel more tired and hungry, throwing off the balance of the hormones we release that regulate our appetite known as Leptin and Ghrelin. These work in opposition of each other turning our hunger on and off. When this balance is thrown off we start to produce less leptin (the appetite suppressing hormone) and more ghrelin (stimulates hunger). Therefore we tend to reach for more food, resulting in a calorie surplus. And remember, your body is already not using energy properly so these excess calories we are consuming are stored away as fat. These factors can all make you more susceptible to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

So what should I focus on? While there is no hard number that applies to all people, a good rule of thumb is to receive at least seven hours each night and to make sure one poor night of sleep isn’t followed up with more. Sometimes it can seem like small factor you are neglecting, but it can potentially be the root cause of what is hindering you from reaching your fitness goals.