How Getting More Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight

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The connection between sleep and weight loss or gain may be stronger than you think. Too little sleep can affect your energy levels during the day, the number of calories you burn while resting, and even the foods you crave. At a time when obesity rates are high and nearly 30% of adults get six or fewer hours of sleep per night, it’s important to understand the link between sleep and weight loss.

Sleep can affect your food choices.

Too little sleep can cause you to crave junk food. One explanation for the cravings may be a stimulation of the endocannabinoid system, which increases a person’s enjoyment of food, particularly cookies, chips, and other high-calorie, high-fat snacks. It’s the same system affected by marijuana, which is sometimes said to cause “the munchies.” Worse, people tend to crave these salty or sweet foods in the evening, the time when snacking is most likely to lead to weight gain.

One study found that sleeping just an hour and 20 minutes less than usual resulted in people eating more than 300 extra calories the next day. Study participants burned very few extra calories during the day, not nearly enough to make up for what they ate.

Sleep regulates hunger.

Your hormones affect whether you feel hungry, and sleep plays a role in how those hormones work. The two main hormones that affect feelings of hunger are leptin, an appetite suppressant, and ghrelin, an appetite stimulant. Research has found that people who regularly get too little sleep have higher levels of ghrelin and lower levels of leptin. That translates to stronger hunger pangs and often leads to overeating. And the less sleep you get, the more drastic the change in your hormone levels.

More sleep can give you more energy.

Have you ever wondered how to lose weight while sleeping? If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re going to be tired. When you’re tired, you have less energy and are less likely to get enough physical activity. Conversely, when you’re well rested, you’re more likely to be active and motivated.

Beyond exercise and having more energy, you burn calories even while you’re at rest. But if you haven’t had enough sleep, you’ll burn fewer calories than if you’ve had plenty of Zzz’s. A study in healthy men found just one night of sleep deprivation resulted in 5% less resting energy expenditure. Exerting less energy is one component of weight gain.  

Getting more sleep can help you lose weight.

With busy lives, people can forget how important sleep is to maintain a healthy weight. If you aren’t getting about eight hours of sleep every night, it might be time to adjust your bedtime. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night to better regulate your appetite hormones. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day—even on weekends—will help you keep a routine of sufficient sleep.

If you feel the need for a snack before bed, choose a low-fat protein, such as a protein shake or fat-free cottage cheese, to tide you over until the morning. While studies are limited, research shows there are no negative effects on weight while you sleep with a small protein snack, and there may even be some benefits, such as improved metabolism in the morning and not feeling so hungry when you wake up.

Also make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. Studies have shown that exposure to light at night disrupts metabolism and may cause you to gain weight.

While a good night’s sleep won’t make you lose weight immediately, it will help prevent weight gain, and it often results in weight loss over time.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 May 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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