Chronic Stress, Sleep Issues, and the Weight Gain Connection

Are you struggling with creeping weight gain, despite your best efforts? Your diet and exercise habits may not be the only factors at play. Research shows that if you are chronically stressed and suffer from sleep issues, your body is more likely to pack on extra pounds.

How Stress and Sleep Influence Your Weight

Stress and Weight Gain

For decades, stress has been known to have negative effects on blood pressure1, heart health2, immunity, and more. But more recent evidence is also linking stress to weight gain. Stress influences hormones that can have significant effects on your metabolism.

Increases Cortisol: Chronic stress increases levels of cortisol, a hormone connected to your stress response. Cortisol is a fat-storing hormone, and high levels of cortisol lead to an increase in fat storage3,4.

Alters HPA Axis: Stress alters the working of the HPA axis, a delicate subsystem involving the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands of the body. When there is a disturbance in the homeostasis of the HPA axis, it leads to impaired glucose metabolism, which can affect eating behaviors, and reduced insulin sensitivity, which can also increase fat storage5.

Sleep and Weight Gain

Studies show that poor sleep habits can have long-term effects on your weight, memory, and cognitive function. One study found that losing as little as thirty minutes of sleep a night can promote weight gain6.

Alters Appetite: When you are sleep deprived, it messes with the body’s hunger-regulating hormones. Studies show that levels of ghrelin, a hormone that promotes hunger, increase with lack of sleep7,8 while levels of leptin, a hormone that contributes to satiety and fullness, drop9. When these changes happen, it can easily trigger overeating.

Low Insulin Sensitivity: Sleep deprivation can also affect the way your body uses glucose and lower the efficiency of insulin, throwing your blood sugar out of balance. One study found that when allowed only four hours of sleep for six nights, the body’s ability to lower blood sugar dropped by 40%10. High blood sugar is linked with weight gain.

How Can You Take Control?

Exercise: Regular physical activity can help bring down cortisol levels and stabilize blood sugar levels.

Take Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an herb that is rich in withanolides, phytochemicals that help reduce cortisol levels and improve your stress response. Several high quality studies have found that Ashwagandha is safe and effective for building up your resistance towards stress11.

Healthy Sleep Routine: Go to bed at the same time every day and try to avoid watching TV or using your cell phone late at night. You can also get natural sleep support from a supplement, such as our Melatonin Gummies or our herbal Sleep formula made with melatonin12, GABA, magnesium, chamomile, passion flower, and valerian root.

References:
1. Life-course exposure to job strain and ambulatory blood pressure in men, 2003 Jun 1;157(11):998-1006
2. Job strain and risk of acute recurrent coronary heart disease events, 2007 Oct 10;298(14):1652-60
3. Stress-related development of obesity and cortisol in women, 2009 Sep;17(9):1678-83. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.76. Epub 2009 Mar 19
4. The glucocorticoid contribution to obesity, 2009 Sep;17(9):1678-83. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.76. Epub 2009 Mar 19
5. Stress and Eating Behaviors, 2013 Sep; 38(3): 255–267
6. Losing 30 minutes of sleep per day may promote weight gain, March 5th, 2015
7. Role of sleep duration in the regulation of glucose metabolism and appetite, 2010 Oct;24(5):687-702. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2010.07.005
8. Metabolic consequences of sleep and sleep loss, 2008 Sep;9 Suppl 1:S23-8. doi: 10.1016/S1389-9457(08)70013-3
9. Leptin levels are dependent on sleep duration: relationships with sympathovagal balance, carbohydrate regulation, cortisol, and thyrotropin, 2004 Nov;89(11):5762-71
10. Sleep loss: a novel risk factor for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, 01 NOV 2005
11. A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults, 2012 Jul-Sep; 34(3): 255–262
12. Melatonin: both master clock output and internal time-giver in the circadian clocks network, 2011 Dec;105(4-6):170-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jphysparis.2011.07.001. Epub 2011 Jul 19