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sleep helps you lose weight

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.

But the unfortunate truth is that ⅓ of Americans don’t get enough sleep every night. And 70% of Americans report that they don’t get enough sleep at least one night a month.

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.

  • Sleep meditation

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.


  1. “National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times.” Sleep Foundation, 28 July 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times.
  2. “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.
  3. “The State of SleepHealth in America.” SleepHealth, www.sleephealth.org/sleep-health/the-state-of-sleephealth-in-america/.
  4. 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/.
  5. 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/.
  6. 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/.
  7. Pullen, Caroline. “7 Ways Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 6 June 2017, www.healthline.com/nutrition/sleep-and-weight-loss. 

Always Up at 3 AM? Your Blood Sugar May Be to Blame for Lack of Good Sleep

We talk about sleep a lot, but that’s because its importance cannot be overstated. Not just for weight loss, but for your health in general. Sleep is nourishing and restorative and when you don’t get enough of it, it can completely throw you off in all areas.

As we started educating our clients on the importance of sleep, we noticed an alarming trend: a large percentage of people admitted that not only do they not get enough sleep, but their sleep is unsatisfying. They toss and turn all night or fall asleep fairly quickly, but wake up throughout the night.

There was also a striking similarity in those who were having sleep trouble. A significant amount of people who admitted to unsatisfying sleep were waking up around 3 AM. While that may seem like a coincidence, there’s actually a scientific reason for it.

Why You Wake Up at 3 AM

Your body is a complex organism. Although you probably don’t think about it much, it’s constantly pumping out hormones and balancing these hormones to keep you running like a well-oiled machine. If these hormones are off-kilter, it can cause a number of symptoms—one of which is waking up in the middle of the night. One of the most common causes of waking up around 3 AM is blood sugar imbalance due to stress. Let us break it down for you.

When you’re stressed, it triggers your adrenal glands (which sit right near your kidneys) to pump out a hormone called adrenaline. In response to adrenaline, the liver releases, and your cells use up, more glycogen, the stored form of glucose, or blood sugar.

If there’s not enough glycogen in your body to replenish the stores in your liver, even more adrenaline is released. As a result, your blood sugar levels drop and you begin to feel alert and ready for action, instead of relaxed and ready for sleep.

So, What Do You Do?

Now that you know WHY you’re waking up at 3 AM consistently, the next question is: how do I fix it? The two major goals here are to 1. get your blood sugar balanced and 2. reduce your stress levels.

How to Balance Blood Sugar for Sleep:

  • Eat 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks per day. Make sure that all meals and snacks include protein, healthy fat, and healthy carbohydrates.
  • Eliminate processed foods and focus only on whole, nutrient-dense foods.
  • Never skip meals.
  • Avoid sugar.
  • Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up.

While you’re working to balance your blood sugar, here’s a helpful tip that can get you on your way to better sleep right away. Before bed each night, eat a teaspoon of raw, local honey. The honey gives your body the glucose it needs to replenish the liver’s glycogen stores. That way, your adrenals won’t cause your blood sugar to drop during the night.

How to Reduce Stress on the Adrenal Glands:

  • Follow a healthy diet.
  • Go to bed before 10 PM and aim for at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
  • Engage in yoga and meditation, but avoid intense exercise.
  • Get some sunlight. If this is impossible due to weather, supplement with Vitamin D.
  • Make time to play or engage in activities that you enjoy.

An Important Note

Of course, stress and blood sugar imbalance is not the only cause of restless sleep. Sometimes the tossing and turning are a result of something else, like sleep apnea, consumption of alcohol, age, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Other times, it’s something more simple, like an uncomfortable mattress. It’s always best to check in with your doctor if you’re having chronic sleep troubles to make sure there’s nothing else going on.

sleep and weight loss

Tips for Better Sleep

When you’re feeling sleepy at the office, you might be tempted to reach for a cup of coffee and a sugary snack from the vending machine for a little pick-me-up. When the clock strikes five, you may skip the gym and stop at the drive-thru on the way home because you’re just too dang tired to even think about cooking. You end up sinking into the couch with a cheeseburger in one hand and the remote in the other. Even though you were sure you were going to pass out as soon as your butt hit the chair, suddenly you can’t sleep.

If this cycle sounds familiar, your sleep pattern may be to blame. On the surface, the connection between sleep and weight loss seems obvious. When you don’t get enough sleep, your energy dwindles and you reach for a comfort food, like potato chips, or some coffee or soda. The immediate result is a quick burst of energy, but the longer-term effect is unwanted pounds, more sleep loss, and negative health consequences.

Sleep and Weight Loss

When you’re sleep deprived, your metabolism suffers and your hormones go out of whack — two physiological processes that are essential for weight loss. Sleep deprivation ups the body’s production of ghrelin, a hormone that signals when it is time to eat. To make matters worse, when the body doesn’t get enough sleep, it reduces production of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain that your belly is full. This combination of effects can spell disaster for your weight loss plan.

Although the exact amount of sleep you need is based on different personal factors, most people need about 7.5 hours of shut-eye a night. Increasing that won’t magically help you lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, getting seven hours a night helps boost your metabolism and helps you shed pounds.

If you aren’t getting enough quality sleep at night, it is time to make a change. Follow these tips to start giving your body the rest it needs.

Skip the Caffeine

It’s fine to start your day with a cup of joe, but skip caffeine in the afternoon. When you down caffeinated drinks after about 2pm, your body stays stuck in sleep’s lighter stages at night instead of getting the deeper rest it needs.

Get Exercise

Physical exercise can boost the quality of your sleep, and it doesn’t matter much when you do it. Aim to get at least one hour of exercise each day to sleep better at night.

Forego the Midnight Snack

If you are about to hit the sheets, stay away from midnight snacks, especially things like pizza or chicken wings. These fatty, greasy foods can cause heartburn and keep you up. If your stomach is grumbling close to bedtime, opt for a lighter snack, like a cup of low-fat cottage cheese or an apple. If battling bedtime cravings is a regular issue for you, try Crave-a-Way to conquer the temptation.