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Why does better sleep = better health?

“Happiness consists of getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more.”

— Robert A. Heinlein

Remember when your kids were babies and they did not sleep? When they did not sleep, who else did not sleep? You? How functional were you the next day? Probably not very. Sleep is as IMPERATIVE for good health and weight management as nutrition and exercise. Plus, good sleep improves your brain performance, mood, and health. Think about the day after a rough night of sleep, everything seems more challenging that day. After a good night sleep, you can conquer anything!

According to the National Institute of Health, "There’s more to good sleep than just the hours spent in bed," says Dr. Marishka Brown, a sleep expert at NIH. “Healthy sleep encompasses three major things,” she explains. “One is how much sleep you get. Another is sleep quality—that you get uninterrupted and refreshing sleep. The last is a consistent sleep schedule.”

Sleep is important because it helps to set the bodies internal clock (circadian rhythm). This circadian rhythm plays an important role in regulating the production of numerous hormones including:

  • Melatonin: helps promote sleep

  • Growth hormone: supports bone and muscle development as well as metabolism

  • Cortisol: part of the body’s stress response system

  • Leptin and ghrelin: helps control appetite

Did you know?

Sleep affects your weight by controlling hunger hormones. Those hormones include:

  • Ghrelin: A hormone that increases appetite,

  • Leptin: A hormone that increases the feeling of being full after eating.

During sleep, ghrelin decreases because you’re using less energy than when you’re awake. However, lack of sleep elevates ghrelin and suppresses leptin. This imbalance makes you hungrier, which may increase the risk of eating more calories and gaining weight.

So now you understand why sleep is key to weight management, but let's take the opportunity to hone in on the three key elements mentioned above and how you can start making improvements today!

  1. how much sleep you get. The general consensus says that people need on average between 7-9 hours of sleep. Pause here for a second and think about your average night of sleep. You go to bed at ____ and wake up at ____. When your alarm goes off, are you a repeat snoozer or are you ready to get up? Do you feel rested in the morning? If you need to work on getting more sleep, one way to increase the amount of sleep slowly is to move your bedtime up by 15 minutes. Try that earlier bedtime for a week and add another 15 minutes if you need to until you find that sweet spot. Your goal is to feel rested when your alarm goes off.

  2. how much high quality sleep. This is a little bit more challenging to track because you are sleeping. I personally wear a Whoop strap that provides details about light sleep versus REM Sleep. But without a tracker, be aware of how many times you wake up in the middle of the night and roughly how long you are awake for in those periods.

  3. consistent sleep schedule: Do you roughly go to bed at the same time during the week and on the weekends? What about waking up? I know you might not want to wake up @ 5:00 AM on the weekends, but keeping wake time consistently close is incredibly helpful. We THINK that we can make up our sleep debt on the weekends, but it does not work that way. If you program your body to go to bed at 10:00 PM, then your body learns to start to shut down around 10:00 PM. If you stay up until midnight and then sleep in the next day, you cancel out all of the good work. Consistency is key. Have you heard me say this before?

Good sleep is key to overall health, wellness and weight management.

ACTION ITEM: What can you do this week to make adjustments to your sleep situation?

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