Losing weight is not just about cutting back on portions and hitting the gym. The science is clear that sleep can have a serious impact on weight, food choices and the ability to shed pounds.

Busy lives and hectic schedules can pose challenges to finding time to get enough sleep each night. Plus, people who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation -- such as parents with young children or people with sleep disorders -- are at serious risk as well.

While doctors have known for a long time that sleep disruption affects hormone levels, there has been a more recent understanding about how appetite and weight are also influenced. Specifically, the hormones leptin and ghrelin seem to have a role in sleep and weight management.

Ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and helps stimulate appetite. Leptin is produced in fat cells and signals to the brain when you are full. Sleep deprivation reduces leptin levels and raises ghrelin levels, causing increased hunger and less satisfaction after consuming food, which leads to overeating.

Here are some easy lifestyle changes you can make to help you sleep better at night:

1. Limit or avoid exposure to television, computers and cellphones before bed as they stimulate the mind and make it more difficult to be restful.

2. Cut back on caffeine. Some people can feel the effects of caffeine for up to 12 hours so choose decaffeinated beverages in the afternoon.

3. Exercise is great for sleep, but it can keep the brain from relaxing. A regular workout routine that involves exercise early in the day is best for restful sleep.

4. If you suffer from indigestion or heartburn or notice that large meals negatively affect your ability to sleep, try to avoid eating three hours before bedtime.

5. Establish a bedtime sleep routine that involves dimming the lights and helps you relax, signaling your mind that it is time to unwind.

6. Eliminate any sleep distractions in your bedroom such as electronics that buzz or have bright lights.