Self Care with Wendy logo

How Sleeping Too Little May Keep You Taking Control of your life

Stress and the demands of everyday living have us all struggling to stay on track. We skip our workouts, sleep less, grab food on the run, all in an effort to keep up with the hectic pace of living.

With so much going on, cutting back from seven or eight hours of sleep might seem like the answer. I mean, if you only sleep six hours, that gives you two more hours to be productive, right?

Well, not really. And while it seems like sleeping less might be a good solution to the time crunch, here’s why cutting back on sleep just won’t work.

First off, your brain is TIRED when you don’t sleep

You‘re operating in a fog and making the best decisions is pretty much impossible. When you need a snack, nine times out of ten, you will grab the donut to go with your coffee because you’re so tired you THINK you really need the one-two punch of sugar and caffeine to get you going. Your brain’s reward centres are revved up from lack of sleep and your food cravings are in overdrive. Do you see where this is going?

Studies consistently show us that when our bodies are starved of sleep we opt for quick-fix, high-carb snacks in an effort to keep going.

Second, crappy choices, bigger portions, and no impulse control in the kitchen are bound to produce weight gain, but in addition to changing how your brain functions, sleep deprivation has a powerful effect on hormone production. Hormones plus dieting generally equal disaster. The equation is fairly simple and I talk about it a lot. Cortisol, leptin, and grehlin, which may sound like goblins from the Lord of the Rings, are really the three hormones most commonly connected to weight control.


Cortisol is your stress hormone and it suppresses your metabolism. It’s produced by your adrenal glands, and if you aren’t well rested it’s a safe bet that your stress is going to be through the roof. Cortisol tells your body to save its energy and that means it’s going to hang on to fat. The jury is still out on whether cortisol has a direct bearing on weight loss, but for anyone with emotional eating habits, higher cortisol levels are a recipe for disaster. Stress makes us seek comfort and for many of us, food is a go-to for feeling better.


Leptin is a hormone produced in your fat cells. It tells your body when to stop eating and to burn more calories. When you are tired, your body produces less leptin so your appetite is out of control and your metabolism slides into low gear. Not being able to recognise our body’s hunger signals is difficult enough without the added magic of hormones confusing our wants and needs.


Grehlin is a hormone released by your stomach that makes you hungrier, slows down your metabolism, and decreases your body’s ability to burn fat. When you are sleep deprived, your body makes more grehlin. Awesome. That means you are tired, want to eat a whole lot of junk, and aren’t programmed to burn it off. I think grehlin is my favourite of the sleep-related hormone goblins.


Finally, as if all that hormonal turmoil wasn’t enough, four days of poor sleeping have been proven to be enough to hamper your body’s ability to process insulin too. Insulin is the hormone that your body uses to convert food, particularly sugar and starch into energy. All it takes is four days of sleeping too little to reduce the body’s insulin sensitivity by 30%. When you aren’t using your body’s insulin properly, your body can’t process the fats in your bloodstream so it just stores them as fat.

Set yourself up for the win with a bedtime routine. Most of us know that we perform better when we are well rested. That’s why we create bedtimes for our kids and try to get some sleep before a really big day. When you are embarking on a health plan, you’ve got to use that kind of good sense and self-care. Put away your electronics, relax, and create a bedtime ritual that will help you nod off because the time you spend snoozing is just as important as the time you spend meal prepping and working out.

It’s all about self-care people. All day. Every day.

That’s how you’re going to win at life.

Ready to get unstuck?

Let's make a plan together

Share these tips

Scroll to Top