You try to do everything right in the name of weight loss. You eat more fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. You relegate Uber Eats to a biweekly pleasure. You track your steps, hit the gym, and follow at-home workouts. Still, all you feel is a pang of disappointment when you step on the scale. When it comes to shedding pounds, sleep and weight loss are interlinked—in one of the best ways imaginable.
But before you lose hope and sacrifice weeks of strong-willed determination on half a chocolate cake, consider this: Are you sleeping enough?
Sleep and weight loss are interlinked — in one of the best ways imaginable. More sleep helps you lose weight at a faster rate, while less sleep interferes with your body’s ability to burn fat. Sleep is an oft-forgotten aspect of weight loss, but it’s as important as diet and exercise.
While you sleep, you actually burn calories. This differs from person to person and there’s no fixed number, but the fact is sleep and weight loss are linked because more sleep equals more calories burned.
To put this in perspective, a person who weighs around 140 pounds can burn up to 360 calories by sleeping for 8 hours. When combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, a good night’s rest becomes an effective way to lose and maintain weight.
This connection between sleep and weight loss was also proven in a study that found that those who slept an average of 5.5 hours per night over a 2-week period lost less weight than those who slept 8.5 hours.
Though it sounds easy enough to sleep 8 hours, many Americans don’t. In fact, the 2020 Puffy Sleep Survey found that 59% of respondents reported sleeping less than 6 hours, far below the recommended average for overall mental and physical well-being.
But sleep and weight loss are so interconnected that lack of sleep has the power to undo all your weight loss efforts.
In some cases, you might even notice you’re gaining weight despite your best attempts to stick to a strict diet plan and exercise routine.
1. Lack of sleep deregulates appetite hormones. The connection between sleep and weight loss is most evident in the way it affects your hormones. Your appetite is controlled by two hormones — leptin and ghrelin.
Ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, stimulates appetite, while leptin suppresses it. Studies have shown that lack of sleep increases ghrelin levels and decreases leptin, the hormone that prevents you from overeating.
While one sleepless night won’t have an impact on your weight, persistent sleep deprivation can throw your appetite hormones off course. When ghrelin is high and leptin levels are low, you may feel the urge to eat even if you’re not hungry, leading to weight gain.
2. Food cravings increase and metabolism slows. We all know that feeling of starting a diet and succumbing to our cravings after getting one whiff of a freshly baked glazed donut. One donut turns into two, and before we know it, we’re eating our weight in a bucket of fried chicken, resolving to restart the diet later.
Except, later never comes when you’re sleep-deprived. Would you really have the energy to whip up a healthy meal with all the right macros when you’re running on 3 short hours of sleep? Lack of sleep causes food cravings and you’re more likely to turn to junk food when you’re tired.
Sleep and weight loss are also linked by metabolism. The amount of sleep you get has an influence on your body’s ability to release insulin and process the glucose in your blood. Over time, an excess of glucose may lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
3. Poor athletic performance. It’s no secret that when you’re tired, you’re not as motivated to hit the gym.
Even if you do manage to muster up enough energy to work out, you might find you’re too lethargic to perform at an optimal level. Every exercise will feel twice as hard, and you might struggle to complete a run or get through multiple sets.
Sleep and weight loss are connected, but when it comes to losing weight, the quality of your sleep matters as much as the duration.
Here are some of our top tips to help you snooze better.
Resolve to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Though sticking to a sleep schedule might seem daunting on mornings when you want to sleep in, a routine can actually regulate your sleep cycle.
While you shouldn’t go to bed starving, it’s best to eat your heavier meals earlier in the day so that your body has sufficient time to digest them. In case you feel peckish in the middle of the night, opt for healthy late-night snacks that are nutritious and light, such as a banana with nut butter or half a turkey sandwich.
If you’ve had the same mattress for more than 8 years, it’s time for a switch. A memory foam mattress and a hybrid mattress are both great choices if you want something supportive that doesn’t skimp on comfort.
In case you have trouble falling asleep, consider also investing in a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets can improve sleep quality by providing a calming deep touch pressure that stimulates the feeling of a hug. One of the many weighted blanket benefits is that it is designed to reduce stress, which in turn may lower cortisol production and promote an overall sense of restfulness.
While sleep and weight loss are undeniably linked, getting sufficient rest can have a positive impact on other areas of your life, as well. But if you’re unable to sleep the recommended 8 hours every night, don’t beat yourself up about it. Sleep habits vary from person to person. The only important thing is that you wake up feeling refreshed.
Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.