Is Counting Sheep Affecting Your Waistline?

Is Counting Sheep Affecting Your Waistline?

Counting sheep? You’ve been lying in bed for what feels like hours, persistently watching the clock tick over, calculating how much time until the sun rises. Hundreds of thoughts rush through your mind and relaxing for a restful sleep is at the bottom of your to-do list. Did you know your sleep woes could be affecting your weight? There’s many more factors at play in healthy weight management than your daily food choices and exercise habits.

Looming into Sleep Deficiency 

Sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s an essential and fundamental factor in your overall wellbeing.  Without enough sleep, you can feel cranky, emotional, have trouble thinking clearly, appetite changes and your energy plummets. Can you relate? Although everyone’s individual sleep needs may vary, seven to eight hours each night is a recommended goal. If you’re not sleeping for this amount of time each night, you’re looming into sleep deficiency. 

Sleep’s Connection to Your Weight

"Although no one is going to snooze their way into achieving their dream body, a deficiency of quality sleep can hinder your waistline. Research has found that sleep deficiency and weight gain can go hand in hand."

In a study comparing the effects of four hours of sleep per night to ten hours of sleep, after a mere five days participants who had missed their sleep gained close to one kilogram.1 

Long-term results indicate that each precious hour of sleep does count! During a 16 year study, women who slept for six hours each night were 12% more likely to gain at least 13 kg during the study period, compared to women who slept seven hours. For those who slept no more than five hours, they were a staggering 28% more likely to gain at least 13 kg.2 The body is an intricate system, and when it comes to sleep and satiety, there’s two hormones you and your waistline need to know! 

Leptin, the Satiety Hormone 

With an important role in appetite and weight regulation, leptin sends signals to your brain to notify you when you’re full and also stimulates fat burning in order to create energy. Leptin levels increase after eating; and when you sleep, leptin also remains increased until you wake up and your metabolism increases. Less sleep equals less leptin! 

Ghrelin, the Hunger Hormone 

The ‘it’s time to eat’ messenger, is called ghrelin, which sends hunger signals to your brain and indicates when to switch from burning energy to storing fat. Ghrelin levels decrease after eating; and while sleeping, your ghrelin level also remains low. Less sleep equals more ghrelin!

Playing Catch Up 

Can you catch up on missed sleep? 

Interestingly, people who enjoy a longer sleep during the weekend (on average two hours more than during the week) have a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who skipped a weekend snooze.3 But why wait for the weekend to invest in your sleep?

Count Sheep No Longer 

Incorporate these practices for a satisfying slumber: 

Create a peaceful, dark and comfortable environment in your bedroom – this space is your sleep sanctuary, treat it accordingly!

  • Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine and sugar, during the afternoon and evening. As an alternative, brew a pot of herbal tea. Chamomile tea is a favourite for creating calm. Rich in apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to the receptors in your brain responsible for decreasing stress and initiating sleep. Other sleep time brews include: lavender, lemon balm and passion flower.
  • Invest one to two hours each night before going to bed for relaxation. This could include having a bath, reading a book, practicing gentle stretches or meditating. During this time, limit your exposure to digital screens. These can negatively influence your body’s ability to make your primary sleep hormone, melatonin.
  • Magnificent magnesium (or in this case, magneZZZZZium) is essential for hundreds of processes in the body! Deficiency of magnesium is common, particularly in people who experience insomnia, and can further aggravate tension and stress. Therapeutic doses of magnesium can support your nervous system for a restful night’s sleep. Speak to HealthMasters Naturopath Kevin Tresize ND for the right dose for your sleep needs.
  • Natural medicines including passion flower, Jamaica dogwood, lavender and zizyphus are herbal solutions to promote a restful sleep. Did you know lovely lavender can improve the quality and duration of sleep? While passion flower is particularly beneficial for insomnia and nervous conditions.
Embracing these simple habits can have a profound effect on the quality of your sleep and overall health. If you’re tired of counting sheep, chat to HealthMasters Naturopath Kevin Tresize ND about implementing your own strategies, for your sleep and your waistline.


  1. Spaeth AM, Dinges DF, Goel N. Effects of experimental sleep restriction on weight gain, caloric intake, and meal timing in healthy adults. Sleep. 2013;36(7):981-990. 
  1. Patel SR, Malhotra A, White DP, Gottlieb DJ, Hu FB. Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2006;164(10):947-954. doi:10.1093/aje/kwj280. 
  1. Im HJ, Baek SH, Chu MK, Yang KI, Kim WJ, Park SH, et al. Association between weekend catch-up sleep and lower body mass: population-based study. Sleep. 2017 Jul 1;40(7). doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsx089.

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