Doctor's top tips for shrinking your waistline with a good night's sleep

woman sleeping
A good night's sleep can be doing more for your health than you might expect. Photo credit: Getty.

Many things can impact our weight fluctuating up and down - the food we're eating, how much wine we're drinking, if we're managing to fit in a workout or two.

But many Kiwis might be surprised to know just how much the sleep they're getting can impact their health, including their weight. 

The stress of work and the COVID-19 pandemic teamed with excessive screen time or too much caffeine means that many of us are getting less quality sleep than ever - and this can be bad news for the waistline. 

Dr Michelle Celander, director of program and science at WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) , says that while you might be able to survive on less-than-ideal amounts of sleep, a bad night's rest can "cause a spike in cortisol, a stress hormone, and ghrelin, a hunger hormone."

"The rise in cortisol levels signals the body to conserve energy which means the body will hold on to fat stores. A rise in ghrelin increases your hunger levels, meaning you're more likely to overeat and crave high-fat and high-sugar foods in order to feel satisfied," she tells Newshub.

"So, getting a good sleep every night can make the weight loss process that bit easier."

Dr Michelle Celander says while you might be able to operate on a few hours of sleep, it's doing nothing beneficial for your health.
Dr Michelle Celander says while you might be able to operate on a few hours of sleep, it's doing nothing beneficial for your health. Photo credit: Supplied/WW.

Dr Celander recommends tracking your sleep, including the hours catching zzzs, as well as how rested you feel the next day. 

"This simple act of recording and reflecting on what it takes for you to feel well-rested enables you to identify and strive for an optimal amount of shut-eye each night and helps you put a sleep plan in place to get to bed at the right time," she says. 

Dr Celander has put together some of her top tips for getting a quality night's rest, so you can hit all your goals - whether they be weight-loss or otherwise - the next day. 

Get some sunshine

Before you start your day, try to get out for an early morning walk or jog to soak up some sun. When light-sensitive receptors in our eyes are exposed to sunlight, they tell our brain that it's daytime and help set our body's sleep patterns accordingly. 

Limit caffeine

It's all too tempting to reach for a coffee to combat the afternoon slump, but this may be doing you more harm than good as the caffeine found in coffee acts as a stimulant and inhibits sleep-promoting chemicals in the brain. Caffeine tolerance varies among individuals, but if you find falling asleep difficult, avoid caffeinated drinks at least four or even up to eight hours before you hit the sheets. Dr Celander suggests opting for a herbal tea or decaf option in the afternoon.

Eat nutritious foods

Dr Celander recommends reducing the amount of high-sugar foods you eat throughout the day. Eating sugary foods causes significant changes to blood sugar levels which can bring on feelings of fatigue during the day and impact your sleep patterns at night. Eating nutritious foods ensures your body is getting the nutrients it needs to function at its best and this includes being able to rest and get good-quality sleep each night. 

Get moving

Workouts are an amazing stress zapper and sleep promoter, but you may want to reconsider your timing if you are having trouble getting to sleep. Often doing vigorous exercise in the evening increases your adrenaline levels, making it harder for you to fall asleep. Consider exercising earlier in the day, or if you struggle fitting in a workout some days, make a conscious effort to increase your daily step count throughout the day where you can.

Switch off

Keep the television, phone and the computer out of bed. Limiting these activities performed in bed can strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. Eventually, getting into bed at night will serve as a cue for the brain to go to sleep, rather than staying awake doing other activities.