How Sleep Helps You Lose Weight
Seriously, how much sleep you get each night impacts your body weight
If you’re looking for ways to lose weight without having to step on a treadmill, you aren’t alone.
And while I can’t advise avoiding exercise, there is one activity that requires zero movement and has a shocking impact on your weight:
Sleep. Glorious sleep.
The recommended amount of sleep each night is 7-9 hours for adults and 8-10 for adolescents.
Sleep issues affect around 50-70 million Americans every year and this impacts health in a variety of ways: increased risk of injury, depression, and high blood pressure (just to list a few).
Those might be expected results of not sleeping enough. But lack of sleep affects your weight too.
1. Poor sleep increases your calorie intake
There are so many factors that can lead to increasing your calorie intake each day.
First, sleep helps you lose weight by regulating hunger hormones: ghrelin and leptin.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t produce enough leptin which suppresses hunger.
And it produces too much ghrelin which tells your brain that you’re full.
As a result of that, you may perceive an increased appetite. But it doesn’t stop there.
When you don’t sleep enough, you don’t just want more food — you want more high-calorie foods. Specifically high-carb and high-fat foods.
These foods are difficult enough to resist on their own under ideal conditions.
But choosing healthful foods over junk food becomes a titanic struggle when you take into account how sleep affects decision-making.
When you are low on sleep you have a harder time making good decisions.
Lack of sleep is associated with lower performance in the frontal lobe of your brain. This is where decisions are made and you decide how to exhibit self-control.
So when you don’t get enough sleep, your self-control and smart decision-making suffer. And you’re more likely to eat foods that you’d rather avoid as you try to lose weight.
2. Sleep improves your physical activity
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to help you lose weight.
But when you’re tired every day you won’t want to exercise. It’s as simple as that.
If exercise isn’t part of your regular routine yet, it’s hard to get motivated. And you make it even harder to get motivated when you aren’t well-rested.
Poor sleep has also been shown to decrease performance outcomes. While getting enough sleep every night has proven to improve athletic performance.
And then there’s the matter of recovery. Sleep is essential for your body to properly recover after exercise. If you want to get better at exercise and see all the weight loss outcomes possible from your workouts, you need to get enough sleep each night.
3. Sleep improves your resting metabolism
Resting metabolism is how many calories your body burns while at rest.
There are some ways of increasing (or decreasing) your resting metabolic rate. And it should come as no surprise now that sleep is one of them.
Sleep helps you lose weight by increasing your resting metabolism.
One reason this may be the case is that inadequate sleep can cause muscle loss. And muscle burns more calories at rest than fat.
Tips for getting enough sleep
It’s one thing to know how important sleep is for losing weight. But if you struggle to get to sleep at a good hour, you might need some help making the adjustment.
So if you’re like many who have trouble getting to sleep early, here are some pointers to get to more sleep.
Turn all screens off an hour before bed
Put your phone on the charger, close your laptop, and shut the TV off.
The blue light from screens reduces your melatonin production at night. Melatonin is the hormone that controls your sleep cycle. If you aren’t producing enough melatonin, you won’t fall asleep easily.
So turn the screens off and find something to do without a screen for the hour before you sleep.
Read in bed instead
Reading helps you fall asleep as long as you read from a classic bound book, not an e-reader.
It works because reading relaxes you. It takes your mind off your worries of the day. So if you have a hard time falling asleep because of racing thoughts, this is a useful tool to get out of your own head before bed.
Another tool to overcome any anxiety that keeps you up at night is meditation.
There are meditations made specifically to help you fall asleep. So you can lie in bed, get all cozy, turn on your sleep meditation, and easily relax into sleep. Programs like the Calm app provide plenty of anxiety-reducing and sleep meditations to help you get a full night’s rest.
Create total darkness in your bedroom at night
Depending on where you live, you might have a lot of city light coming in through your window at night.
If the brightness at night is keeping you up, getting better blinds, heavy curtains, or an eye sleep mask to keep out the light will help you sleep better at night.
Create a consistent sleeping rhythm
If you like going out for late nights on the weekend, this can be a frustrating suggestion.
But if you want to lose weight, then having a consistent sleep pattern is just as important as following a steady diet and meal plan.
Having a regular sleep schedule makes it more likely you’ll get tired at an early enough time to get your full 7-9 hours of sleep.
Don’t let your sleep be an afterthought.
While sleep is just one component of your overall health, it’s an important one. When you get enough, sleep helps you lose weight and improves your quality of life.
If you want more guidance about getting enough sleep and how that can help you based on your specific weight loss goals, we’re always here to answer your questions.
- “National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times.” Sleep Foundation, 28 July 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times.
- “1 In 3 Adults Don’t Get Enough Sleep.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Feb. 2016, www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html.
- “The State of SleepHealth in America.” SleepHealth, www.sleephealth.org/sleep-health/the-state-of-sleephealth-in-america/.
- Taheri, Shahrad, et al. “Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index.” PLoS Medicine, Public Library of Science, Dec. 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/.
- Spiegel K;Tasali E;Penev P;Van Cauter E; “Brief Communication: Sleep Curtailment in Healthy Young Men Is Associated with Decreased Leptin Levels, Elevated Ghrelin Levels, and Increased Hunger and Appetite.” Annals of Internal Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15583226/.
- Wu JC;Gillin JC;Buchsbaum MS;Chen P;Keator DB;Khosla Wu N;Darnall LA;Fallon JH;Bunney WE; “Frontal Lobe Metabolic Decreases with Sleep Deprivation Not Totally Reversed by Recovery Sleep.” Neuropsychopharmacology : Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16880772/.
- Pullen, Caroline. “7 Ways Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 6 June 2017, www.healthline.com/nutrition/sleep-and-weight-loss.
By Jodi Jaffe
September 23, 2020
Weight Loss, Health Tips