Why Sleep Is Important For Weight Loss

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on October 2, 2019
woman under a blanket

Do you know that 30 percent of adults in the US don’t get the right amount of sleep? According to the National Sleep Foundation (1), adults need to sleep from 7 to 9 hours every night. But it seemed that adults sleep less than 6 hours most of the nights. And that should not happen because it can be detrimental to your entire wellbeing.

Diet and exercise are not the only factors in losing weight. You actually need to have the right amount of sleep to ensure you maintain your weight. But, many of us don’t get enough sleep, and it’s not good for our weight much worse our health.

Here are the reasons why sleep and weight are interrelated

Poor sleep is a major factor for weight gain

Do you know that it’s hard to make up for the sleep you have lost? Although it’s always a good idea to pay back your sleep debts, you still need to have a consistent sleeping habit. Having a good sleeping habit can give you a good night sleep and can help you aid in weight loss.

There are actually pieces of evidence which show that one of the reasons why people are struggling in losing weight is sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is a major factor for weight gain. Both in epidemiologic and experimental sleep studies find a correlation between shorter sleep and obesity (2).

Due to modern pressures, we keep our bodies exposed to food, light, and activity, even if our cells and organs expect a quiet and peaceful sleep. We should always find time to sleep. In fact, disrupted sleep will result in not only obesity, but also other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

According to WebMD (3), we often shift to large latte just to keep us moving. We may be tempted to skip exercise because we are too tired. We may even opt to get takeaway for dinner.

Poor sleep affects your appetite

A study shows that people who sleep less than 7 to 8 hours (4) have a higher body mass index (BMI). Because of sleep deprivation, two essential hunger hormones- leptin and ghrelin- are affected. They are opposing hormones responsible for regulating our appetite.

Leptin is often referred to as the “satiety hormone.” It signals our brain not to eat more foods (5) because there are already enough fats stored in our body. It suppresses our food intake and stimulates our energy expenditure.

On the other hand, ghrelin is often referred to as the “hunger hormone.” It signals our brain to eat more foods (6), especially when we are on a diet, making it difficult for us to lose weight. It stimulates our appetite, which leads to body growth and fat production.

Studies found out that people who sleep shorter have increased the level of ghrelin and decreased the level of leptin. It means that the energy expenditure decreases, and the appetite increases. Since our brain is signaled to eat more, we will most likely become obese. That’s why it’s very essential to get the right amount of sleep to regulate the amount of ghrelin produced in our body.

Sleep can help you make healthy choices

If we lack sleep, our brain works differently. Probably, it will be difficult for us to make healthy choices. The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for making decisions. But if we are sleep deprived, the activity in the frontal lobe becomes dull.

Aside from that, sleep deprivation can stimulate the reward centers of the brain. That’s why it will be hard for us to control ourselves from eating unhealthy foods. And we crave for more foods that are rich in carbs, fats, and calories.

A study also concluded that cravings for unhealthy foods are induced (7) due to lack of sleep. We crave for unhealthy foods because our taste function is altered. In fact, it is found out that foods high in umami may be experienced differently.

Sleep deprivation can make you eat more foods rich in calories

If we lack sleep, we are most likely to consume more calories. A study was conducted to determine the relationship between sleep and calories intake (8). It was found out that men who sleep for only four hours consume an average of 559 calories, higher than when they are allowed to sleep for eight hours.

The increase in calories intake can also be linked to poor food choices, as discussed earlier. On the other hand, there is also a study which shows that the consumption of calories is also proportional to the time when we are awake (9). Thus, if we replace hours of inactive wakefulness to sleep, it will probably result in the reduction of calories intake.

Sleep affects your resting metabolism

Do you know that our body is at work day and night? Indeed, we burn calories even when we sleep (10). But, it doesn’t mean that it can result in weight loss. The calories we burn depend on various factors such as metabolism, weight, and amount of sleep every night.

The number of calories burned when we are completely at rest is called the resting metabolic rate (RMR). It was shown that RMR decreases if we are deprived of sleep (11). Adults who have low RMR are most likely to gain weight, resulting in obesity.

On the contrary, there are also studies which show that sleep loss doesn’t affect metabolism (12). That’s why we need to conduct further research to ascertain if sleep deprivation really affects metabolism.

Sleep promotes physical activity

If we exercise more than 150 minutes a week (13), we feel more alert during the day and sleep better at night. In fact, studies show that people feel less tired during the day, even if they should engage in physical activities, as compared to those who don’t.

The good thing about regular physical activity is that it is a non-pharmaceutical alternative in order to get an ideal sleep. Since physical activities can give us better sleep, we are most likely to be productive at work.

Perhaps, one of the pervasive health concerns in American society (14) today is the inability to sleep well. But, it seemed like this problem is not fully recognized. The good thing is that there is an effective intervention for those who are not able to get adequate sleep. Engaging in physical exercise can actually help in regulating our sleeping pattern.

On the other hand, having a good night sleep can actually make us feel energetic throughout the day. If we don’t get enough sleep, we will most likely feel tired during the day. If that is the case, then we will less likely engage in physical activities.

Sleep prevents insulin resistance

The sleeping patterns of diabetics are affected whenever their blood sugar levels are out of control. Our kidneys try to get rid of the excess sugar by urinating frequently. That’s why we probably don’t get enough sleep because of frequent urination.

Sleep problems and diabetes (15) often go hand in hand. Diabetics usually have sleeping problems. On the other hand, sleep deprivation could increase our risk to become diabetics.

People who are deprived of sleep will most likely feel tired. People who feel tired will probably eat more in order to gain energy from foods. And because sweets usually give more energy, it means that more sugar will be most likely to be consumed.

Insulin is in charge of helping our body use glucose to convert it into energy. But, if we lose sleep, our cells become insulin resistant. If that is the case, then sugar remains in our bloodstream, and our body induces more insulin.

Here are the ways on how to get a night of good sleep

Perhaps, it is impossible to get a good night sleep when you are still wide awake at 2 a.m. You may not realize it, but you can actually control the quality of your sleep. It seemed like it’s difficult for you to change your sleeping pattern, but you can do it by having a daily routine.

Tip 1: Make a sleep-wake schedule

If you follow your sleep-wake schedule, you will probably become energized compared to when you sleep at different times, even if it means the same number of hours. If you get up and go to sleep at the same time every day, your internal clock will be set, and your sleep quality will be optimized.

To do that, you should determine the time when you normally feel sleepy. In that way, you will also be able to know what time you will probably wake up. Remember that you will wake up naturally if your body gets enough rest. It means that you don’t need an alarm clock anymore.

Tip 2: Control light exposure

Your sleep-wake cycle is actually regulated by a naturally occurring hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is affected by light exposure. If it is dark, your body produces more melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy. If your body is exposed to light, your brain secretes less melatonin, which makes you more energetic and alert.

During the day, you may need to be more exposed to light. To feel the daylight, you can drink coffee outside. This will make you stay awake. You can also walk your dog or engage in physical activities in order to spend more time outside the house during bright sunlight.

At night, it is best to avoid bright screens, especially an hour or two before you go to bed. Your gadgets emit blue light which can disrupt your sleep. That’s why you may need to minimize your exposure to computer, phone, tablet, or TV before sleeping.

Tip 3: Exercise

You already know that exercise can help you with your sleeping problems. Not only that, it has various benefits in your entire well-being.

That’s why you should say no to exercise. It is proven that people who engage in physical activities experience a good night sleep.

You can get many sleep benefits if you exercise more vigorously. However, it is enough that you walk for at least 10 minutes a day. It can still help you improve your sleep quality.

But, it is worth noting that the effect will not happen overnight. Studies show that it takes months of regular exercise for you to feel more powerful sleeping benefits.

Tip 4: Know what you eat and drink

Do you know that your eating habits have a huge role in your sleep? For instance, drinking beverages rich in caffeine can affect your sleep.

Some caffeine lasts up to ten to twelve hours in your system. If you drink caffeine before bedtime, you will probably be wide awake the entire time.

Just come to think when you eat big meals at night. It is recommended not to eat two hours before bedtime. Eating heavy foods at night can make you stay awake. And if you eat acidic or spicy foods, your stomach will probably experience heartburn and stomach ache.


Getting the right amount of sleep is very crucial to maintain your weight. If you have sleeping problems, you should know how to deal with it.

Otherwise, it’s not just your sleep that will be affected, but also your weight. Sleep and weight are also linked to various diseases so you may wish to make sure that you maintain both.

Your body responds differently, especially when it comes to food when you have a night of poor sleep. You will probably have an increased appetite, which will lead to weight gain. It will most likely be hard for you to control yourself to eat unhealthy foods.

Don’t make your sleeping problems worse. Don’t allow yourself to gain weight. That’s why you should be able to know how to get a good sleep in order not to affect your weight.


(1) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-do-we-need-sleep
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831987/
(3) https://www.webmd.com/diet/sleep-and-weight-loss#1
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535424/
(5) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/leptin-101#leptin
(6) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ghrelin
(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29447996
(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20357041
(9) https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/75728/j.1467-789X.2006.00262.x.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
(10) https://www.healthline.com/health/calories-burned-sleeping#1
(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4701627/
(12) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism#section1
(13) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep
(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5385214/
(15) https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/diabetes-lack-of-sleep#1

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