Trying to lose weight? Sleep on it
  • The Sound Sleeper

Trying to lose weight? Sleep on it

Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just maintain, it’s important to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Let’s explore why.

Sleep has a direct effect on eating habits and physical activity

If you’ve had inadequate sleep, you tend to feel hungrier and seek higher-calorie comfort foods1, especially later in the day2. You’re awake for more hours, giving you more time to eat. And when you’re tired, exercise is usually not at the top of your list — but drinking more coffee to stay awake is. Eating high calorie foods late at night, increasing caffeine intake, getting no exercise — all of these are a recipe for poor sleep the next night. Now you’re in a vicious cycle of bad habits and inadequate sleep.

You can't fight biology but understanding it helps

There’s a biological reason behind craving late night pizza and beer, derailing any weight loss plan. Two metabolism-related hormones with a yin/yang effect are at work. Ghrelin promotes hunger while leptin contributes to feeling full, and they work day and night to regulate your appetite. A lack of sleep affects the body’s regulation of these chemical messengers, giving you more ghrelin and less leptin and a pathway to weight gain. In one study, a group of participants slept for 8 hours each night over an 8-day period while a second group slept 5.3 hours. The latter group ended up consuming 677 more calories and had no change in activity level3. Over time, this caloric consumption would not only lead to weight gain but would tip the scales towards obesity4.

Working your way to weight loss

What time you eat plays a role in weight loss. When you skip breakfast and eat a late lunch, you tend to lose weight less quickly. Eating a healthy breakfast and consuming more of your calories before 3 p.m. can help your efforts5. A tip to help you sleep better and assist in weight loss: Avoid eating three hours before you go to bed. And stay far away from heavy foods and alcoholic beverages.

Some additional ways to get the right amount of quality sleep to achieve weight loss:

  • Stay away from caffeine at least seven hours before bedtime
  • Get adequate daily exercise, but not right before going to bed
  • Keep to a regular sleep schedule
  • Aim for an early bedtime to avoid late-night snacking
  • Address any stressors causing you to lose sleep
  • Sleep in a darkened room
  1. Nedeltcheva, A. V., Kilkus, J. M., Imperial, J., Schoeller, D. A., & Penev, P. D. (2010). Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Ann Int Med, 153(7), 435-441.
  2. Spaeth, A. M., Dinges, D. F., & Goel, N. (2013). Effects of experimental sleep restriction on weight gain, caloric intake, and meal timing in healthy adults. Sleep, 36(7), 981-990.
  3. Calvin, A. D., Carter, R. E., Adachi, T., Macedo, P. G., Albuquerque, F. N., Van Der Walt, C., … & Somers, V. K. (2013). Effects of experimental sleep restriction on caloric intake and activity energy expenditure. Chest, 144(1), 79-86.
  4. Spiegel K, Tasali E, Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Effects of poor and short sleep on glucose metabolism and obesity risk. Nat Rev Endocrinol, 2009:5;253-61.
  5. Garaulet, M., Gómez-Abellán, P., Alburquerque-Béjar, J. J., Lee, Y. C., Ordovás, J. M., & Scheer, F. A. (2013). Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. Internat J Obesity, 37(4), 604-611.

Consistent sleep loss increases your risk of obesity by 70%

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