Sleep Your Way Lean

We live in a caffeinated, productivity-driven society that imposes a host of demands on us.

Ever felt like you left work but work didn’t leave you because you kept thinking about it? I certainly was like that before, and focusing on my career sure took precedence over a lot of things, such as sleep. Sleep?

They don’t call it the little death for nothing, in my world it was a waste of time. I only slept 4 to 5 hours a night in order to do more work. But in the end, it catches up to you. Scientists have identified sleep as one of the cornerstone of health, mental and physical. Thomas Dekker said it best:” Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together”

It turns out sleep not only can keep you healthy, it can also help you get thinner, and stay that way. In fact, the growing epidemic of insomnia is thought to be related to the growing waistline of the population (1), and lack of sleep has been shown to be a potent hormonal disruptor (5) on top of this. In fact, the obesity curves in the Western World countries match the sleep deprivation curves.

One of the main effect of sleep deprivation is that it drives inflammation up in the body. Inflammation is known as ‘the silent killer” because it aggravates any other conditions and diseases and can deteriorate health on its own. Inflammation is definitely not something you want more of.

Inflammation in turn reduces your sensitivity to insulin and drives up cortisol production (7-8). Cortisol is the stress hormone that opposes insulin, the nutrient-storing hormone. They are on a delicate balance between each other to keep your blood sugar level. Ever noticed how after a night of restless sleep you seem to crave sugary foods more (8)? That’s because lack of sleep alters the balance between insulin and cortisol and destabilises your blood sugar, making you go for the pastries (2, 4) instead of drawing energy from a power breakfast of meat and nuts.

But lack of sleep alters more than your sweet tooth. It can make you a glutton as well, as even curtailing the duration of your night will diminish production of leptin and boost production of ghrelin, two hormones that regulate your appetite. Leptin is responsible for telling you that you are full, while ghrelin signals hunger, telling you it’s time to eat (4). Sleeping 1 hour less than usual can make you eat as much as 45% more food, according to one study (1). This condition is made worse by sleep apnea, a common problem in overweight people.

The endocrine havoc doesn’t stop there, as sleep disruption will also make you produce less testosterone and less growth hormone, and both are necessary to maintain a good lean mass to fat mass ratio as well as regenerating from a hard fat loss workout.

A lot of these hormonal changes are made possible by lessening the production of melatonin, which is produced during sleep and is responsible for triggering the proper hormonal cascade (3, 4, 5, 8).

The duration of your sleep is predictive of the magnitude of your fat loss when on a diet and exercise program. When given caloric restriction, people in a sleep-deprived group lost less fat than people in a normal sleep group (1, 2). Researchers have also noted that circadian rhythm and daily habits will have the same effect, so this is bad news if you are a shift-worker or don’t have a regular schedule (3).

Overall, sleep is one of the most potent habits you can have to improve your health and lose more fat, faster. In an upcoming article, I’ll give you my top recommendations for a better, longer sleep, so stay tuned.

Sleep well,

Coach Charles R. Poliquin



1) Chaput, J., et al. Sleeping Habits Predict the Magnitude of fat Loss in Adults Exposed to Moderate Calorie Restriction. Obesity Facts. 2012. 5(4), 561-566.

2) Lindseth, G., et al. Nutritional Effects on Sleep. Western Journal of Nursing Research. August 2011. Published Ahead of Print.

3) Randler, C., Ebenhoh, N., et al. Chronotype but not Sleep Length is Related to Salivary Testosterone in young Adult Men. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012. 37. 1740-1744.

4)K. Spiegel, E. Tasali, P. Penev, and E. Van Cauter., Sleep Duration and Levels of Hormones That Influence Hunger; Annals of Internal Medicine, 2004; vol 141: pp 846-850.

5) Sunil Sharma and Mani Kavuru, Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview; Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism; vol 89: pp 5762-5771.

6) Murphy, HM., & Wideman, CH. (2009). Constant light induced alterations in melatonin levels, food intake, feed efficiency, visceral adiposity, and circadian rhythms in rats. Oct;12(5):233-40.

7) Leproult, R., & Van Cauter, E. (2010). Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss In Hormonal Release and Metabolism. Endocr Dev. 2010;17:11-21

8) Copinschi G., Metabolic and endocrine effects of sleep deprivation; Essent Psychopharmacol. 2005;6(6):341-7