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The Hidden Link Between Sleep and Weight Loss

An image of a woman wearing oversized pants, as a result from losing weightWeight loss is a serious issue in society and on a personal level for a lot of people. Not only does excess weight affect the way you look, but it also has a direct impact on your overall health and wellbeing. And losing weight can be very difficult. However, new research on the link between sleep and weight loss suggests that not getting enough good sleep could be just as serious. It’s not just what you eat that helps you get to and stay at a healthy weight. This is important information for everyone, and it’s even more vital if you have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) and struggle with stress and chronic dysfunctions in your body to stay in a healthy weight range.

The Link Between Sleep and Weight Loss

For a long time, general wisdom has claimed that eating before bedtime is bad for your weight loss efforts. According to this idea, the sugar in the foods you eat is more likely to be turned into fat stores because you’re sleeping rather than working them off.

However, a new study about the link between sleep and weight loss suggests that there are more important things you should be concerned about. The study participants were 1,573 healthy middle-aged and older adults with no underlying conditions in Japan. Data was collected over a period of three years between 2012 and 2014. This included lifestyle data as well as diabetes testing.

Out of the group, 153 of them fell asleep within two hours of eating dinner. And the participants who fell asleep early didn’t experience rises in their HbA1c levels in any significant way. HbA1c is the blood test used to identify and monitor people with diabetes. Other factors, such as alcohol consumption and a higher BMI, had much greater effects on blood glucose levels than eating late.

These results suggest a correlational link between sleep and weight loss. This means that these factors are closely related. Basically, if you experience short sleep durations or deprivation, then you’re more likely to have unhealthy eating habits and impaired glucose metabolism as well. So, if you want to decrease your chances of developing illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, it would probably be better to focus on getting more sleep.

Is Late-Night Eating Good For You?

If you want to take advantage of the link between sleep and weight loss, then you need to be careful about how you do it. Eating fatty or sugary snacks like chocolate and chips will not aid your weight loss in any way. Instead, you should be focused on the foods that are part of a healthy diet. In a recent study, participants were given cottage cheese about thirty minutes before bedtime. This was found to have a positive impact on metabolism and overall health as well. So, if you are going to eat before bedtime, make sure that you’re not sabotaging your diet.

If you do decide to try to adopt this strategy to get more sleep and maybe boost your weight loss efforts at the same time, then you need to be aware of the potential consequences as well. Although the link between sleep and weight loss suggests that eating late probably won’t affect your weight loss efforts, it may increase your risks of certain cancers.

A study performed to explore whether the timing of meals could influence health found a significant connection between late eating and poor health. The study showed that people who ate before 9 pm or waited two hours before going to sleep had a 20 percent lower risk of breast and prostate cancers. This is why people who do shift work or work on the late shifts have a higher rate of these cancers. This highlights the importance of the circadian rhythm in determining health, particularly when it comes to diet and cancer.

The Impact on AFS

NEM Neuroaffect CircuitStress is a key component in AFS because it causes the activation of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response and the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. So, when the NEM stress response becomes overused because of chronic stress, the demand for cortisol increases over time and causes the adrenals to become fatigued and stop functioning correctly. Cortisol affects every system, organ, and circuit in your body, so when the adrenals become fatigued, it will cause the widespread malfunctions that are characteristic of AFS.

The body consists of six circuits that each contain three systems and organs that function together to perform their individual and combined duties. But when you have AFS, these systems get out of balance, which causes a range of confusing symptoms. AFS symptoms often include insomnia, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, feeling “wired and tired,” low blood sugar symptoms, salt and sugar cravings, and food sensitivities.

Unfortunately, AFS isn’t commonly accepted by the medical establishment, which is why people who suffer from it often baffle their doctors. So, if you experience symptoms related to AFS, you may experience a lot of frustration and not much success in finding the right kind of help. Measures that are designed to address only the symptoms of AFS won’t work. When you have this disorder, the underlying imbalances need to be addressed before you can find relief.

One of the most difficult circuits to re-balance when it starts to malfunction is the Neuroaffect circuit. This is because the symptoms relating to this circuit are often vague and easily attributed to other disorders.

Sleep and the Neuroaffect Circuit

The Neuroaffect circuit includes the autonomic nervous system, the brain, and the microbiome (the body’s bacterial balance). In the advanced stages of AFS, imbalances in this circuit often become obvious and can be very serious. Neurotransmitter (NT) imbalances are one of the most common manifestations of this, but these types of problems can be hard to identify. A simple urine test can tell you if your levels are unusual, but too little is known about the brain and its processes to accurately connect these results to a specific disorder or problem. Additionally, NT levels can fluctuate wildly depending on stress, your diet, oxygen levels in the brain, and the presence of infections in the body, which further confuses the results.

When the Neuroaffect circuit becomes unbalanced, it can cause a range of fluctuating symptoms including mood swings and disorders, brain fog, anxiety, and insomnia. These problems usually occur as the result of NT imbalances. These occur as the gut and the autonomic nervous system become unbalanced, causing problems with the creation and control of these chemicals. Different issues that occur within this circuit can cause different NT imbalances. For example, high levels of norepinephrine can cause insomnia, anxiety, and the overactivation of the nervous system. This can cause additional stress for the body and may worsen the underlying imbalance. The delicacy of these systems makes the link between sleep and weight loss even more important.

How Sleep and Food Impact NT Levels

Several factors can cause NT imbalances including stress, dietary habits, and internal environmental factors. These three factors are essential to the debate about sleep and weight loss. Here’s how:

  • Stress - Stress is a major cause of AFS and of NT level imbalances. A lot of different things can cause stress including sleep deprivation and poor sleeping patterns. In fact, all the research indicates that poor sleeping patterns affect your physical health, your mood, your blood insulin levels, and may even cause mood disorders. This can become a downward spiral if you have AFS. Stress will cause problems with your sleep patterns, which will hinder your weight loss efforts. It will also worsen your AFS, which will cause further NT imbalances that will worsen your sleep. And if you’re not sleeping well, it will cause stress, which will bring on or exacerbate your AFS symptoms and imbalances. For all these reasons, the debate about sleep and weight loss is extremely important when you have AFS.
  • An image of a woman asleep with pizza by her face

  • Dietary habits - The research on sleep and weight loss suggests that your dietary habits are important to weight loss, but other factors also play a big role. Dietary habits are also important for your NT levels. If you aren’t eating properly, it will not only cause you to gain weight; it will also affect the nutrient levels in your body and impact the production of NTs in several ways. This could cause further imbalances that affect your sleep, stress levels, weight loss efforts, and AFS.
  • Internal environmental factors - There are several internal environmental factors that can impact NT levels including blood sugar levels and eating foods you are sensitive to. Fortunately, the studies about sleep and weight loss indicate that eating close to bedtime shouldn’t affect your blood glucose levels. But eating the wrong foods will. AFS and NT imbalances often cause weight gain because of sugar cravings. And when you eat a lot of sugar, it will negatively affect your blood glucose levels which can cause weight gain and affect your NT levels. When you have AFS, you’re also more likely to be sensitive to foods, which can worsen the situation. And this can result in more weight gain and an increasing battle to keep your weight under control.

All these factors impact your AFS and NT levels, and this will have a devastating effect on your sleeping patterns, which will, in turn, affect your weight loss efforts. And the opposite is also true, which is why this pattern is so dangerous.

Restoring Balance in the Neuroaffect Circuit

When imbalances occur in the Neuroaffect circuit, it often results in widespread and confusing physical, mental, and emotional issues. However, these imbalances can be corrected, and the new insight about sleep and weight loss can help with that task.

By getting adequate amounts of sleep, you will not only aid your weight loss efforts, but you will also reduce your body’s stress levels and stabilize your blood sugar levels. This will help to reduce your AFS symptoms, particularly when it comes to the Neuroaffect circuit and NT imbalances. It’s also important that you adopt a healthy eating plan, as this will help with all of these goals, including your weight loss efforts.

When you’re trying to correct your NT levels, it’s important that you don’t try to do it on your own. Your brain is a delicate organ, so any efforts to change its chemistry must be personalized and done with careful consideration. It’s only with the help of a medical professional who understands the effects of AFS and how they manifest in the Neuroaffect circuit that you can start to make real and lasting improvements in this essential element of your AFS recovery.


An image of a woman sleeping peacefullyUnderstanding more about the link between sleep and weight loss can help you more effectively design your life to support your weight loss efforts. This link exists because no system in your body works on its own. Your body is a series of systems that work together and support each other to function correctly. So when one system malfunctions, other systems naturally start to exhibit problems as well. This is even more relevant if you have AFS, which often causes widespread imbalances in every circuit and system in your body. If you’re trying to lose weight by addressing only one of the issues that could be influencing your weight gain, then you’re quite literally working against your body’s other systems. And that path won’t help.

© Copyright 2020 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

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It turns out that there’s a powerful link between sleep and weight loss. So if you’re struggling with your weight despite your efforts, then it might be time to look at your sleeping patterns.

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