How a lack of good quality sleep can impact fat loss

Written by Mark Coles - Follow on Google+ | Facebook | Twitter

When I started to write this article it made me remember when I was struggling to get more than 6 hours sleep a night, struggling for energy during the day and living on caffeine and stimulants to keep me going. I’m sure this sounds familiar to you but I can clearly remember not being able to connect my poor energy levels with my lack of sleep. I was seeing poor results in the gym and I also had a lack of motivation and drive to train. It's very rare now if I don't get a good 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. I feel refreshed when I wake up every day, I have immense drive for life and my results in the gym keep improving week by week. How can something as simple as sleep have such an effect on the body, your fat loss efforts and the way that you feel? 

Many people I speak to tell me that they’ve tried everything to lose body fat but nothing seems to work. It doesn’t take me long to find out that they sleep less than 6 hours a night, they struggle to get off to sleep when they get in bed, they wake up various times throughout the night and they always wake up feeling groggy in the morning.

Lack of sleep has also been linked to depression, your immune system doesn’t function optimally when you’re sleep deprived and as a result you become susceptible to colds, viruses and flues.

The hustle and bustle of everyday lives usually leaves people looking forward to that one day off a week when they can try and catch up on their much needed sleep. Optimal sleep has to be something that is practiced regularly if you want to reap the benefits it can bring. 

The major disruption to the body when it comes to poor sleep is in your hormones. The major hormones that are affected are growth hormone, melatonin, cortisol and insulin. These are the very hormones that need to be in balance for optimal body composition.

Growth hormone

This hormone plays a key role in the development of your muscles and bones, it also plays a key role in fat burning. You produce a large portion of your growth hormone in the first 2 hours of deep sleep. Growth hormone levels naturally start to decrease from your late 20’s. Poor sleep patterns only contribute to its speedy decline. If you have enough growth hormone you will be able to build lean muscle more effectively, and this is key for optimal fat loss. Fat loss becomes very difficult if you have low levels of growth hormone and a simple step like optimal sleep can help rectify this.


The body needs complete darkness to produce this hormone. Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland and promotes healthy sleep cycles and is also involved in energy metabolism. Waking up in the middle of the night interrupts melatonin production, especially if you turn on the light. If you do wake up, make sure you keep the light off.


Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and is part of our survival mechanism. It comes into use when we need to be alert in a given “fight or flight” situation. We produce cortisol naturally in the morning as we wake up, and our levels gradually lower as the light fades and we move into the evening. The problem with many people is that their cortisol levels are back to front and they find themselves wide awake late at night and unable to wake up in the morning.

This cycle is known as our circadium rhythum, our natural sleep/wake cycle.  We are supposed to produce the stress hormone cortisol in the morning which helps us wake up and the level should then lower gradually throughout the day as you get into the late afternoon and early evening. The problem with so much of today’s society is that cortisol remains high right up to bed time and is the main reason why you struggle to fall asleep. People watch television too late, use laptops in bed, drink alcohol in the evening and don’t respect the bodies desire to relax and unwind ready for the next day.

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Insulin is the major hormone that controls your blood sugar levels. Lack of sleep is one way to experience the powerful effects of imbalanced blood sugar levels. In my article on Insulin sensitivity I discuss the powerful role that insulin plays on fat loss. 

This imbalance of hormones leaves your body stressed and unable to rest and recover. You will have very little energy to train and you will be unable to control your hunger levels. This is a perfect recipe for either weight gain or stubborn body fat loss. The good news is that restoring your sleep patterns can control your hormones and helps to restore them to their normal levels.

So here are my top tips to help you restore your natural sleep patterns, energy levels and lead you towards a lean and flat stomach.

1.       Get into a routine, go to bed at the same time every night to ensure you get at least 7 – 8 hours sleep

2.       Take a warm bath half an hour before bed (try adding 250 grams of Epsom salts into your bath and soak for 20 minutes)

3.       Fit black out blinds in your room, your bedroom should be dark like a bat cave. Remember your need for melatonin production.

4.       Turn off flashing clocks and television lights. These create strong magnetic fields and interrupt your sleep.

5.       Fill in a grateful log. Before you go to bed, acknowledge 5 great things that you’ve either had done to you or you’ve done for someone else.

6.       Avoid coffee and other stimulants after 3pm.

If you’ve just read this article and are still unsure if it all applies to you, just ask yourself these questions:

1.       Do you sleep less than 7 – 8 hours per night?

2.       Do you feel wired in the evening?

3.       Does it take you more than 10 minutes to go to sleep?

4.       Do you wake up in the middle of the night?

5.       Do you wake up feeling tired every morning?

If you have answered yes to more than one of these questions, it is safe to say that you have a sleep problem. You would benefit from using my top tips to help restore your sleep pattern.

Would you like more useful tips and advice to help you lose fat? Pick up a copy of the M10 Blueprint.

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