Good Night



A catchier title would be LOSE WEIGHT WHILE YOU SLEEP, but you know that’s not my style. The point is that the sleep you get on a regular basis has a very real impact on your health and your weight, so it could be worth paying some attention, to the quality as well as the quantity.

The quantity needed could vary from person to person, but is generally thought to be between 7 and 8 hours, preferably uninterrupted. Research on sleep deprivation is conducted on those who get 6 hours or less. A clear link has been observed between inadequate sleep and excess weight, and not necessarily from obstructive sleep apnoea.

With regard to food, there are two aspects for us to consider: the effect of poor sleep on your eating and health, and the effect your health and what you eat has on your sleep. You see we can have a vicious circle here. The good news is that the circle can be broken down in a number of ways.

The effect of poor sleep on your eating and health 

  • Research shows that even one night of restricted sleep creates insulin resistance the following day. Long-term sleep loss is likely to impair insulin function, which does tend to develop into more serious conditions. (1,2)
  • Insulin is often referred to as the fat-storage hormone, and when it’s not functioning well, you gain weight more easily and find it tougher to lose. It’s thought that this makes it difficult to maintain a healthy weight if you’re not sleeping enough. (3)
  • Inadequate sleep has been shown to affect the appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin, creating an increase in appetite. (4)
  • Lack of sleep increases levels of cortisol, leading to an increase in inflammatory markers, which are indicators of body stress. Cortisol becomes elevated during the evenings, when, of course, it’s especially unhelpful for a good nights’ sleep. (5)

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  1. Rachael

    after 20 plus years of insomnia, I found taking a liquid magnesium supplement helps with my sleep, but wasn’t enough to keep me asleep. after more research, I started eating a breakfast with resistant starch which seems to balance my blood sugar, stop my overeating and help my sleep. Google resistant starch for more ideas- I make a smoothie with a frozen green banana (tastes fine in a smoothie mixed in)- you could also add unmodified potato starch to yogurt or something like that.

    • Wow – thank you for this, Rachel. It makes so much sense and I’ve not come across the resistant starch connection before. I have some in my kitchen but don’t use it as often as I could.

  2. Gail

    A marvelous article thanks!

    We have recently moved from the country ( all dark) to a town with street lights on all night and shining through the blinds. We have now added a black out blind and the sleep improvement has been dramatic.

    But what I didn’t realise is the sugar/carbohydrate snack that I always “fancy” late evening is also damaging my sleep.

    Thank you for all the articles you produce, but this one really is speaking to ME!

  3. Ellen

    Thank you for writing this article, Gillian. It’s the first article I’ve read about insomnia that seems to make any sense to me. I have always known that for me there is a connection eating and sleeping – too much food or the wrong things trigger it. Also how I have slept affects how I eat the next day – I seem to crave sweet things more when I’m tired.
    What you say about cortisol and its impact on sleep resonates with my sleep experience as do you comments about sugar and sleep and inflammation – I’ve been having aching joints as well as indigestion and I think from what you have said previously, they’re are related to acid making foods.
    I’m working on it all and, as I get more understanding of the relationship between food and sleep i’m getting more “good night” and fewer bad nights.
    Thank you. Ellen

  4. Sarah

    This is the best article on insomnia I’ve ever read! So many useful ideas. I didn’t really understand (though I should have figured it out) that starchy refined carbs could cause that banging heart feeling when trying to sleep…or that low blood sugar could be waking me up a few hours after over-indulging in addictive foods. My own insomnia has got worse alongside my addictive eating in recent years, and I can see how the two things have exacerbated each other. After reading this article I feel really motivated to detatch myself from addictive urges! Thanks for a great article, Gillian.

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