Tzippy Bernstein, in-house dietitian, back for the last post in our Sleep & Hormones series. We’ve already learned about ghrelin, leptin and cortisol, but there’s one more hormone we need to really keep our eye on when it comes to weight, appetite and the risk of chronic disease: Insulin.

Insulin is our sugar-regulating hormone. It’s produced by the pancreas to help our cells and muscles absorb the sugar from the blood to give us energy. I’m sure if you’ve ever heard the word insulin before, it likely went hand-in-hand with the word diabetes. I’ll come back to that in a bit.

Now, you probably know what I’m about to say, but I’m going to say it anyway: Insulin is very much connected to our circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. Poor sleep (or lack of sleep) prevents insulin from doing its job of removing sugar out of the blood and into our cells and muscles. This is called insulin resistance.

As you start to lose more and more sleep, insulin resistance will get worse and worse, leading to too much sugar being left in the blood. Here’s where we come back to diabetes: Because our body is fighting so hard to get that sugar in the cells and muscles, we start producing even more insulin. The issue with this? It causes weight gain and it’s a precursor for diabetes. And what happens if our cells and muscles can’t access this sugar for energy? We are physically exhausted.

Let’s start connecting the dots:

  1. Poor sleep causes insulin resistance, both of which are major factors contributing to decreased energy.
  2. When we’re low on energy, we grab quick and easy foods that will increase those energy levels—and they’re typically high in sugar.
  3. These foods lead to weight gain and higher blood sugar because our insulin isn’t working as it should.
  4. We also have the pancreas working on overdrive to make more insulin, causing weight gain. Talk about a negative feedback loop!

Oh, and one more thing: Remember that little thing called cortisol? It also causes our cells to be more resistant to insulin!

You’re probably not going to believe me when I say this, but I’ve only scratched the surface of hormones over the last few months. The importance of sleep and its interconnectedness with weight and appetite is more complex than you can imagine. I believe the key to living well and changing habits is making informed decisions based on adequate (and accurate!) knowledge and education.

I sure hope you’ve started to understand more about your own journey involving sleep and nutrition. If you’re ready to learn more, you can book a complimentary consultation with yours truly to start understanding just how you can balance your body and hormones.