The Importance of Sleep

A guest post by JJ Virgin

JJ Virgin

Note from David Lee: I asked JJ to be a guest blogger because of her outstanding work on nutrition, exercise, and how to optimize all for maximum energy and fitness…which are critical foundations of resilience. The more I have learned about the role sleep, hormone balance, stress, and fat loss/gain all interrelate, the more I appreciate:

1. Practices that increase your resilience increase your ability to have the hormone environment that burns fat.

2. Practices that optimize fat loss also optimize the hormone environment that’s conducive to resilience.

3. If you’re doing things that make you store fat, you are doing things that make it hard for you to be resilient.

JJ marks the beginning of more guidance on the physical side of building resilience at

If you don’t know JJ’s work, go to . She isn’t one of those “pop fitness celebrity gurus” with superficial advice. She has the intense scientific research to back up her approaches.


How to save thousands of dollars each month and get fast fat loss

Your neighbor’s barking dog, along with the construction crew down the street (which seems to be working 24 hours a day), kept you tossing and turning till 3 a.m. last night.

Coincidence that the scales aren’t budging this morning, despite your consistent effort to stick with a reduced-calorie diet coupled with those evening aerobics classes?

Research at the University of Chicago shows even if you follow a healthy diet and exercise program, not getting eight hours of sleep every night increases your obesity risk.

see “How Losing Sleep Can Pack On Pounds” 

Ditch the outdated paradigm that your body is a bank account. Even the most militant diet and exercise proves futile if you aren’t getting seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.

That’s because numerous hormones become out of whack when you don’t get your sleep quota, which can stall fast fat loss and make you a caffeinated mess. Let’s look at a few of those hormones

Lack of sleep negatively impacts your hunger hormones

It’s no coincidence that you’re experiencing an intense craving for Entenmann’s crumb coffee cake after only five hours of sleep last night. Ghrelin, a hormone that commands your brain to eat now, increases when you sleep poorly. Leptin, on the other hand, helps put the brakes on the brownie cheesecake. When you don’t sleep, you become more leptin resistant.

Lack of sleep increases fat storage

Sleep also affects your ultimate fat-storing hormone, insulin. Chronically elevated insulin makes it more difficult to burn fat. Long-term sleep deprivation can make your cells insulin resistant, leading to higher fasting insulin levels. Besides impairing fat burning, these high insulin levels can lead to diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

Lack of sleep lowers your fountain-of-youth hormone

You might discover the fountain of youth in your sleep. Not in your dreams, but with human growth hormone (GH), which prevents aging, builds muscle, promotes fast fat loss, and boosts immunity. No wonder celebrities spend thousands a month on GH injections!

Sleep helps your body naturally boost GH to help you repair and rebuild. No surprise, then, that a study in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience found that less sleep means you release less GH.

Lack of sleep raises cortisol, your stress hormone

High levels of your hormone cortisol break down muscle and store fat. Your cortisol levels remain high for longer periods when you don’t sleep well.

High cortisol burns up your energy-assisting B vitamins and you can’t make the neurotransmitters you need to sleep well. Cortisol also lowers serotonin, the feel-good hormone your brain eventually converts to melatonin for good sleep.

The cortisol/ caffeine/ fat storing connection

All bets are when you don’t sleep well, you’ll stop by your nearest Starbucks before work and grab a venti sugar-loaded coffee for an early-morning boost. (Your sleep-deprived lapse of judgment will probably also make you succumb to a low-fat blueberry muffin.)

You might get a temporary jolt, but by early afternoon you’ve hit your second low, so you make another Starbucks run for your caffeine hook-up.

Here’s the deal. Just one cup of coffee can raise cortisol levels 30% for an hour. Additionally, caffeine can elevate cortisol levels in your blood for 18 hours. That means if you’re on the java cycle all day, you continually elevate cortisol levels and store fat.

Ironically, the caffeine that gives you that temporary boost from sleep deprivation also makes you sleep deprived. Caffeine’s half life is 12 hours, which explains why you’re still revved up at 9 p.m. even though you shut off your computer and are settling in with a hot bath.

Break the caffeine/ lack of sleep vicious cycle by cutting back to one cup of coffee, and eventually to green tea, during morning hours.


Davidson JR, et al. Growth hormone and cortisol secretion in relation to sleep and wakefulness. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 1991 July; 16(2): 96–102.

Nedeltcheva AV, et al. Exposure to recurrent sleep restriction in the setting of high caloric intake and physical inactivity results in increased insulin resistance and reduced glucose tolerance. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Sep;94(9):3242-50.,-Cortisol.html

© 2011 JJ Virgin & Associates, Inc. Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness Expert JJ Virgin helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food allergies.  She is the bestselling author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, a Huffington Post blogger, creator of the 4X4 Burst Training Workout & co-star of TLC’s Freaky Eaters. Visit her at to take the quiz & find out if Your “Healthy” Habits are Making You Tired, Bloated & Age Faster? 


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