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how sleep affect your metabolism

June 2024



  • The Science & Art Of A Good Night’s Sleep
  • Living With The Rhythem Of Nature
  • Sleep & Metabolism
  • Sleep & Your Mood

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Sleep and your metabolism

You spend about a third of your life sleeping. Some consider sleep a waste of time, but eight to nine hours of sleep are essential for your immune system, metabolism, and mental health. 

How is your sleep?

If you have ever experienced a sleepless night, you can remember the fatigue and irritability that followed you like a shadow the following day. We now know that feeling something is “off” in your body is not just in your head. Well, actually, it is in your head, but not in the way you think about it. 

The “off” feeling you get after you toss and turn all night, counting sheep and listening to the ticking of the clock, is due to your hormones going out of whack. 


what is metabolism

Feeling hormonal? Zoom in on the endocrine system.

The endocrine system is a network of glands that produce and release hormones. These hormones regulate essential bodily functions, including: 

  • Your appetite and metabolism
  • Your body temperature
  • Your sexual function and drive
  • Your blood pressure and heart rate
  • Your circadian rhythm

While a good night’s sleep is crucial for hormone production, a dysregulated endocrine system can also rob you of sleep. 


A couple of words about metabolism, insulin, and insulin resistance.

Metabolism is the sum of the chemical processes that occur within your body to maintain life. These processes convert food into energy, build and repair tissues, and regulate bodily functions. Think of metabolism as the engine that keeps your body running, processing fuel (food) to generate energy and sustain vital functions.

Metabolism happens in every cell of your body. Cells get glucose from the blood and use it as fuel to perform their tasks. But glucose needs help entering the cells. This is where insulin becomes handy. When blood glucose increases, the pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin’s role is to open the doors of the cells for glucose. You might want to think about insulin as the key to the doors of cells. 

When blood glucose is consistently high, cells resist the key, meaning insulin doesn’t work as effectively. Cells resist insulin as a defense mechanism; energy production is a combustion process. In the right amount, heat benefits cells, but too much heat can kill them.

Once cells resist insulin, blood glucose increases because cells keep their door shut to more glucose. The pancreas will produce more insulin because it responds to increased blood glucose. A vicious cycle is created that, if unmanaged, can damage the pancreas. When damaged, the pancreas cannot produce insulin effectively, which is type 2 diabetes.


How Sleep Affects the Endocrine System

Glucose metabolism

Sleep debt puts the body under stress, leading to higher cortisol levels. High cortisol makes the body believe that it needs to get ready to fight or flight. The body releases fuel, AKA glucose, from the muscles and liver into the blood so you can tackle the stressor. Higher blood glucose, if chronic, increases insulin resistance.

When you settle for less than a good night’s sleep, your body is prone to inflammation, a risk factor for insulin intolerance. 

The circadian cycle regulates your sleep and metabolism, including cell glucose uptake. Disrupted sleep messes up your inner clock; the body can’t predict your energy needs, so it keeps fuel (glucose) in the blood to be ready, leading to high blood glucose and insulin that put you at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Appetite and Satiation 

How many times did you feel tired and reach out for a snack?

When you are fatigued, the body needs more fuel to function, reducing the satiation hormone leptin and increasing the hunger hormone ghrelin. 

People with chronic sleep debt will tend to reach out for snacks more often, which leads to weight gain. 


Tissue growth and repair

Growth Hormone (GH) is a hormone released by the pituitary gland that is vital for growth, tissue repair, and muscle building. Growth hormones are secreted mainly when you are asleep. 


The roles of growth hormones in the body:

Breaking triglycerides into fatty acids—Growth hormones are essential in fat metabolism. They break down triglycerides into fatty acids, giving the body a good energy source. 

Promoting protein synthesis: Growth hormones are crucial for tissue repair and muscle building. Muscles burn more calories than fat tissue. By building muscles, growth hormones increase your metabolic rate, helping you reduce weight.

Regulating the sensitivity of cell receptors to insulin—Growth hormones play a role in glucose regulation and ensure that the body has a steady energy supply. 


Metabolism is the foundation of energy production; you will be exhausted if you don’t sleep well. Moreover, when you don’t sleep enough, your cells are exhausted, so they can’t function effectively, creating a chain reaction that leads to disease. 



Some tips for supporting a good night’s sleep and a healthy metabolism:

  1. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to help the body predict your energy needs.
  2. Manage Stress: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to reduce stress levels.
  3. Mind Your Diet: manage your blood glucose during the day to prevent glucose highs and dips by eating fat and protein alongside carbohydrates at every meal.

I consider sleep critical for growing health from the roots up. When creating a care plan for my clients, I make sure that they get the sleep they need to heal. I also consider how hormones, especially glucose dysregulations, can lead to disrupted sleep. 


If sleep is a challenge, I invite you to join the Stress Gut & The Immune System program, where I share my sleep cheatsheet, including hacks for a good night’s sleep and herbal sleep support.
.If you are curious to learn more or need help designing a lifestyle that will optimize your well-being, book a 20-minute free consultation with me. 


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Disclaimer: This document is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. I am not providing medical, psychological, or nutrition therapy advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your own medical practitioner. Always seek the advice of your own medical practitioner and/or mental health provider about your specific health situation. You can view my full disclaimer here.
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