Most people know that good sleep is important for overall health and wellness, but you may be surprised to learn that sleep can also affect your weight. In fact, if you are trying to drop weight to improve your health, inadequate sleep can be a primary issue standing in your way. Let’s look at the ways that sleep influences weight loss, as well as what you can do to increase your chances for success.
The Role of Sleep on Body Weight
Before diving into the importance of sleep for weight loss, it is helpful to understand the relationship between sleep and body weight. According to research, when people do not get enough sleep, it can negatively impact your metabolism and your hormone levels. For instance, the thyroid slows, and hormone levels change in a way that increases feelings of hunger and leads to cravings for high-calorie foods. Ultimately, this leads people to burn fewer calories while consuming more food, which clearly can result in weight gain.
Lack of sleep can also increase levels of our pesky little stress hormone, cortisol, which has been found to increase food consumption and lead to fat storage, a combo most of us are not crazy about! In addition, sleep deprivation influences the way that the body processes blood glucose, and can lead to even more increased feelings of hunger.
Beyond changes to metabolic functioning and hormone levels, lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain by causing a change in our behaviors. For example, it may be difficult to find the motivation and drive to exercise when struggling with fatigue from poor sleep. Research has also shown that when people do not prioritize sleep, they engage in more late-night snacking (when they would otherwise have been sleeping). They may also seek out high-calorie foods during those late hours to boost their energy levels.
Over time, the combination of metabolic changes, hormonal fluctuations, and eating behaviors that occur with a lack of sleep can make it challenging to lose weight, and can even contribute to weight gain. Prioritizing sleep is critical if you want to counteract all these effects and manage you weight effectively.
Studies on Sleep and Weight Loss
Given the relationship between sleep and weight, scientists have taken an interest in the effects of sleep on weight loss. One study in a 2021 edition of the International Journal of Obesity evaluated the effects of sleep quality on a group of overweight adults participating in a weight loss program. Study results showed that those who had healthy sleep habits clearly lost more weight and body fat when compared to those with poorer sleep habits.
Another study with individuals who had previously lost weight found that those who had the highest BMI slept under six hours per day. On the other hand, individuals with lower BMIs slept eight to nine hours per day.
The Bottom Line
Scientists know that sleep is important for health, and it plays a critical role in weight management. Lack of sleep has a negative influence on hormone levels and metabolic functioning, and fatigue can lead people to become sedentary and seek out high-calorie foods for energy. On the other hand, sufficient sleep can help you to lose weight and keep it off while also given you all the other wonderful benefits that come from a good night’s sleep.
So, how much sleep is enough? According to the CDC, most adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night, but some may need as many as nine hours. Most people’s sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle. Achieving the recommended amount of sleep can make it easier to keep yourself healthy and feeling good, as you will likely find that you have more energy for activity and are less tempted by high-calorie foods. If you’re having trouble making sleep a priority, it may be beneficial to practice good sleep hygiene by following a consistent sleep schedule, keeping your bedroom cool and dark, and limiting the use of caffeine and electronic devices in the evening.
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