Are you the type of person that gets their best work done at night? What if I told you those hours staring at your screen at 12am is what’s causing you to not lose weight? As tempting as it is to stay up late for the sake of productivity, I’m here to tell you this is not helping you. Poor sleep habits and a disrupted circadian rhythm are a huge component of weight loss resistance. Let me explain why it’s time to regulate your circadian rhythm.
What disrupts a circadian rhythm?
Not only does when you sleep and the quality of that sleep affect your circadian rhythm but the timing of sun exposure, exercise and eating all have significant impacts as well.
Risks of being a nighttime person
The circadian rhythm is our body’s internal 24-hour clock. When it is working well, it knows when you should be awake, when you should be asleep, when to burn fat, and when to store fat. Research has shown that people who are of the eveningness circadian pattern have a higher likelihood of putting on weight and more difficulty losing it. When there is a disconnect between what you are doing and what your body thinks you should be doing, you will pack away all of the nutrients from a meal, whether it’s healthy or unhealthy. We also know that these people tend to be hungrier, feel less satisfaction with meals, and also have less energy and motivation to exercise, or even move around throughout the day.
Issues with oxidative stress are main factors connecting circadian rhythm disruption with weight loss resistance and other health consequences.
I often explain oxidative stress to patients by using the example of an apple. If you cut an apple in half and leave it on the counter, the exposure to oxygen in the air will turn the apple brown. If you add an antioxidant like lemon juice to the exposed apple, the lemon juice will prevent the apple from being oxidized and browning. The balance between oxidants and antioxidants occurs in our bodies as well. In order for this balance to work, your circadian rhythm needs to tell your body when to make each of these. The issues arise when you’re not eating well, your system is stressed out, and your circadian rhythm isn’t timed properly. All of this contributes to more oxidation, less antioxidants and weight loss resistance.
Health Consequences of Disrupted Circadian Rhythm
- Metabolic syndrome: includes obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, putting you at greater risk for cardiovascular disease as well
- Insulin resistance: includes weight loss resistance, hormonal imbalances, skin changes, and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): includes insulin resistance, inflammation, and altered repair systems so that fat accumulates in the liver, and liver damage can result
- Increased oxidative stress: involves cellular damage and decreased cellular repair
- Cancer: oncologists use the power of circadian rhythms to treat cancer, as there are often circadian disruptions involved in the disease process
It’s time to take sleep seriously. If you’re a night owl, it’s time to start pushing that bedtime up by 15 minute increments each week to ensure you’re getting to bed by 11pm the latest. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy but I promise it will be worth it. If we can normalize your circadian patterns, everything else will follow suit and you’ll have another piece of the puzzle in place to overcome weight loss resistance. You can find a complete breakdown of how sleep and your circadian rhythm affect weight loss resistance in my new book, Finally Lose It.