Restful Sleep: As Important As Exercise in Weight Loss
This may be your excuse (read on) to skip the gym in the morning
Friday, March 6, 2015
by: Robert Kachko, ND, LAc

Section: Weight Loss

Robert Kachko, ND, LAc is a Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed Acupuncturist at InnerSource Health in New York City. He proudly serves on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and takes an active role in the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians (NYANP). He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Doctoral Degree in Naturopathic Medicine and a Masters Degree in Acupuncture from the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine and Acupuncture Institute. He has completed an additional 2 year course of study in Classical Homeopathy at the New England School of Homeopathy. He completed his pre-medical studies with a Bachelor's Degree with honors at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Dr. Kachko believes in the importance of expanding access to Naturopathic Medicine and Acupuncture for all patients. At the College of Naturopathic Medicine, he was founding President of the expanded local chapter of the Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA) and received the prestigious award for Outstanding Service to the Profession.

To learn more about Dr. Kachko, please visit him on Facebook and
March 2-8 was national Sleep Awareness Week. But, there is no time like the present to recommit yourself to something you spend (or should be spending) 1/3 of your life doing.

Did you know that getting up early to exercise might actually MAKE you gain weight? Yes, you read that correctly: you may be better off sleeping that extra hour than getting up early to go to the gym. Don’t throw away those workout clothes just yet: exercise is also crucial to your health, and sedentary lifestyles have proven to be extremely detrimental to your health along many parameters. So, stuck between the mythological Scylla and Charybdis of your morning routine, what are you to do? Though this may seem like an insurmountable dilemma, proper planning and some tips on gaining restful sleep can spell a recipe for sustainable success.

Sleep deprivation is common, so helping patients get enough rest takes center stage in many treatment protocols. Evolving research shows us that our sleeping habits are a strong indicator of our ability to maintain a healthy body weight, controlling for other factors such as diet and exercise. This means that two people who eat the same quality and quantity of food, and burn the same number of calories through exercise, may have very different health outcomes based solely on the quantity and quality of their sleep. Lack of sleep has been associated with decreased leptin levels, altered ability to handle glucose, and elevated ghrelin/cortisol levels, all of which contribute to an elevated appetite.

In one study, 123 overweight and obese men and women who were fed a calorie restricted diet (which should have resulted in fat loss independent of other factors) over the course of at least 15 weeks were unable to lose sufficient weight if they didn’t get enough sleep. The authors predicted that just 1 hour of sleep loss over that time resulted in 0.7 kg of extra weight over the same period (which equates to 5.3 pounds extrapolated over one year). These types of results are staggering for anyone who has dealt with the frustration of being unable to keep weight off in a sustainable way.

Equally important to how much we sleep is our ability to obtain uninterrupted sleep. Another study showed that those who experienced more fragmented sleep (defined by at least 5 “wake episodes” per night – normal being defined as 4 or less) strongly contributed to magnitude of weight loss. Though the mechanism is not yet fully understood, the study did find dysfunction of the primary control center of our endocrine system: the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. There’s also no such thing as sleep debt we can catch up on: It has been shown that just one night of fragmented sleep can cause reduction in REM sleep and dysfunctional insulin control.

While maintaining an active lifestyle is an important piece to the puzzle of vibrant health, we now understand the risks we take if it comes at the cost of restful sleep. While it may be difficult to find time in our busy routines to exercise, planning ahead and being efficient with our workouts allows us to get the best of both worlds: invigorating activity and reparative rest.

Here are some tips to get more high quality sleep. As always, see your naturopathic physician for recommendations that are specific to your needs:
  1. Regularity: Maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle. Try to go to bed at the same time each night, as we truly are able to train our bodies to expect regularity. The time you choose is important as well: sleep prior to midnight is more restful.
  2. Power down: Turn off devices with blue light, such as the light emitted from TVs, telephones, and iPads. This light has been shown to inhibit the production of the all-important sleep hormone melatonin. Similarly, try to avoid highly stimulating activity of all kinds, including exercise and stressful conversation.
  3. Black out: Try to keep your sleep environment as dark as possible, as any light from the outside interferes with our circadian rhythms. Whenever this is not possible, sleeping masks may be recommended.
  4. Ditch that coffee: Those who metabolize coffee more slowly can be impacted for up to 24 hours by just one cup. While coffee may have some benefit and is not an issue for everyone, consider reducing your intake if you have sleep issues. On that note, if you wake to urinate often during the night, see if reducing your intake of fluid 3 hours before bedtime reduces this.
  5. Snacks: Though eating before bed is not generally recommended, those who wake often in the middle of the night may benefit from a small snack high in protein (think a small handful of healthy nuts) to help stabilize their blood sugar throughout the night.
  6. Sometimes, sleep to satiety: The alarm clock is a very recent addition to our morning routine. All animals sleep until they feel rested, and for good reason. Sleeping just a few minutes per day short of what our bodies need may be enough to cause harm. Since most of us have no choice but to stick to a routine, take every opportunity you can to listen to your body. At least on weekends, turn off that alarm and allow yourself to sleep in. Your body will thank you.
  7. Unwind and let go: Choose something relaxing (a warm bath, light reading, calm conversation with a loved one) to add to your bedtime routine. Set your intention on releasing the stresses of the day and remember that with the next morning comes a new opportunity to work toward your goals. Accept what has transpired today, and make an effort to be present in the moment at hand in order to create a more fulfilling tomorrow.
  1. Ye Y, Zhong W, Lin X, et al. Association between sedentary life style and risks of metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus type 2. Zhonghua Liu Xing Bing Xue Za Zhi 2014;35(11):1235-40.
  2. Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Role of sleep and sleep loss in hormonal release and metabolism. Endocr Dev 2010; 17: 11–21.
  3. Chaput JP, Tremblay A. Sleeping habits predict the magnitude of fat loss in adults exposed to moderate caloric restriction. Obes Facts 2012;5(4):561-6.
  4. Sawamoto R, Nozaki T, Furukawa T, et al. Higher sleep fragmentation predicts a lower magnitude of weight loss in overweight and obese women participating in a weight-loss intervention. Nutr Diabetes 2014 Oct 27;4:e144.
  5. Gonnissen HK, Hursel R, Rutters F, et al. Effects of sleep fragmentation on appetite and related hormone concentrations over 24 h in healthy men. Br J Nutr 2013; 109: 748–756.
  6. Figueiro MG, Plitnick B, Rea MS. Pulsing blue light through closed eyelids: effects on acute melatonin suppression and phase shifting of dim light melatonin onset. Nat Sci Sleep 2014;6:149-56.
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