Trying To Shave Off The Belly Fat And Keep A Lean Body? Here's Why Sleep Is More Important Than Exercise And Diet


By Yulli Agnes, MD, MBiomed (AAM)

Even if you’re eating a healthy diet and exercising every day, there's one major factor that could derail your best efforts to become lean and healthy: not getting enough sleep.

Sleep. We all know we need it, but with our ‘busy’ lifestyles, many people view sleep as a waste of time that could be better spent doing just about anything else. When we're falling behind in one area of our lives, sleep is often the first sacrifice we make. Too often, in fact.

Problem is, when you skimp on sleep you’re not only making yourself tired and derail your efforts to shave off those pounds and belly fat, you’re also speeding the aging process and increasing your risk for diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular problems.

Unfortunately, we live in an over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived society. Not only are we sleeping less, but it also seems we're getting poorer-quality sleep. And the consequences are showing up around our waistlines


Lack of Sleep Wreak Havoc to Your Hormones

Skimping even just one night of sleep disrupts metabolism and hormonal balance in numerous ways, many of which reinforce each other, and you’re creating the perfect conditions for fat accumulation.

Here’s what happened to those fat-making hormones every time you don’t sleep enough:

  • Too much ghrelin — which causes you to get hungry; and not enough leptin — which makes you feel full and stop eating. Ever wonder why you have those sweet cravings the next day after late nights? You wind up eating more despite your commitment to stick to your eating plan.
  • Too much cortisol — which signals your body to storage fat.
  • Not enough glucagon & adiponectin — which helps break down fat and essential for fat-burning.

“Tired and wired” is often the feeling patients describe when these and other hormones become out of balance, creating a vicious cycle of hunger, cravings, and more sleep deprivation.


Too Little Sleep Wrecks Your Mental & Emotional Stability

Lack of sleep is the fast track to low moods — feeling irritable, helpless, easily frustrated, anxious, and/or depressed. Your mental & emotional wellbeing is important not just for weight loss (remember the large bucket of ice cream you had when you were feeling sad and depressed?) but also critical for your overall health & wellbeing.

Even when you are sleeping your brain is still very active. Here’s what your brain is doing while you are getting your Zzz’s: 

  • Removal of toxic waste from the brain: A part of our body known as “the glymphatic system” is responsible for clearing toxins from the brain — and it’s only active during sleep.
  • Producing brain chemicals: when you had a stressful day, your brain uses up supplies of key amino acids and brain neurotransmitters that are restored when you sleep. That’s why you need more sleep, not less, when you are working extra hard.


Skimping on sleep makes you tired and less likely to exercise

Whether you know it or not, sleep is anything but unproductive — your body is busy refreshing, repairing, and rejuvenating just about every cell in the body, so if you don’t make time for sleep, you’re disabling your body’s ability to recharge and heal itself. Here’s what your body is actively doing while you’re snoozing:

  • Producing growth hormone (GH) — which is important for cellular repair; also when the level is drop will make you tired and make you more likely to gain weight.
  • Muscle repair: When you exercise, muscles break down, then they rebuild, growing larger and stronger — but only during sleep. So no matter how dedicated you are to your exercise routine, if you're consistently getting less than seven hours of sleep per night, your muscles will fatigue more easily and your coordination and agility will be compromised, increasing your risk of injury.
  • Pain relief: If you don’t have enough sleep, your pain threshold tends to drop, so it’s essential to give your parasympathetic nervous system time to let your body rest, digest — and heal.


So what's better: waking up early to work out or sleeping in another hour?

Sleep and exercise actually work together quite well. When you're getting enough exercise, you'll fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply, and when you're getting enough sleep, your workouts will be stronger.

We've all had to choose between sleep and exercise at some point. Even the healthiest people will sacrifice their sleep, 'tough it out' or supplement with caffeine, and pushes hard on exercising.

Both sleep and exercise are essential to living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight, and being able to find the right balance between the two, when life is not perfect, is the key.

Be mindful of your own body, depends on how you slept the night before and how you've been sleeping overall. It is better to skip an hour of exercise if you have consistently gotten less than six hours of sleep. But if you only have one poor night of sleep—but usually you sleep well—you can exercise and then compensate the following night.


Sleep is one of the most fundamental acts of self-care. Getting enough good and restful sleep keeps your body energized and at a healthy weight, and you’re treating your body to the greatest body- and brain-boosting anti-aging treatment there is.