Sleep Well: How Sleep Affects Weight Loss

How to Shrink Your Waistline with Better Sleep

The Connection Between Sleep and Weight
Good sleep habits are very important to weight loss and a healthy body.

You want to lose weight but aren’t sure where to begin. It can seem overwhelming when you are first getting started. There are many factors involved in successful weight loss and they each play an important part in a good weight loss program. In order to make the best choices you need to get the best information.


It is essential that you understand how your behavior affects your weight loss results, or you won’t be able to make lasting changes. One thing you will want to consider, according to researchers, is the role that your quality and quantity of sleep plays in losing weight.


Lack of Sleep and Weight Gain

Sleep is a challenging subject, especially in the U.S. where productivity defines many individual lives. It seems the more you get done, the better respected you are. Unfortunately playing around with the amount of sleep you get each night can become a dangerous habit when it comes to your waistline.


There have been numerous studies that examined the link between lack of sleep and weight gain. The following are examples of the many studies that have found a direct link between the two.


  • A Finnish study published in the International Journal of Obesity in January 2011 found that participants who had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep showed major weight gain.
  • A University of Colorado at Boulder study found participants who slept only five hours a night gained an average of two pounds during the study’s one week.
  • A Nurse’s Health Study found that of the 68,000 adults tested, those with five or less hours of sleep a night had a 15 percent greater chance of obesity during the 16-year extensive research than those who slept seven hours a night.


Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

There appears to be a hormonal connection triggered by lack of sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, your ghrelin levels increase. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates your appetite. That means you become hungrier when you are tired.


At the same time, leptin levels can plummet after a bad night’s sleep. Leptin is the hormone responsible for the full, satisfied feeling you get after eating a meal. When you don’t have that feeling, chances are you will continue to eat.


When you combine the rising ghrelin levels and decreasing leptin levels, it is no surprise that people gain weight with poor sleep. That is the result you would expect from continual overeating.


Implementing Good Sleep Habits for Weight Loss

Obviously practicing good sleep hygiene is non-negotiable – it’s critical to your health. That means you need to figure out how much sleep you need to be well-rested. For most people, 7-9 hours per night is sufficient but there are people who need as much as 10 hours sleep a night to function well.


Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.  It will help you strengthen your circadian function, which is how your body balances sleep and wake cycles. Establish a soothing bedtime routine and sleep in a dark environment with a cool temperature setting.


If it is difficult for you to fall asleep, then The National Sleep Foundation suggests keeping a sleep diary of your sleep challenges. Note times when you have trouble sleeping as well as when you are feeling groggy during times when you should be awake. Then you can share the information with your physician who can determine whether there is a medical problem.


What Really Works for Weight Loss

In addition to improving your sleep habits, there are a variety of things you can do that have a real impact on losing weight. It’s the combination of multiple strategies that really works for weight loss.


  1. Eat every few hours, which means you need healthy snacks available between meals. Good options are a handful of almonds, a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter or a ¼ cup hummus with carrots.
  2. Exercise at least 20 minutes per day with a cardio activity such as walking, running, or swimming. Also build muscle with strength training two to three times a week, because muscle burns fat more quickly.
  3. Practice good sleep habits. This includes sleeping an average of 7-9 hours a night, as well as going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. If getting out of bed on Monday mornings is a challenge, it may be because your sleep patterns were disrupted over the weekend from staying up late or sleeping in.


When it comes to weight loss, it’s important to start slowly and build the changes into your routine incrementally because then you are more likely to stick with them. Trying to do too much at once will leave you overwhelmed and it’s much easier to give up when you feel that way.


Making changes to your sleep habits to include plenty of rest on a regular basis will be one of the most important changes you can make to a smaller waistline and better health.



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