Surprising Facts: Sleep and Weight Loss
Ever feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle with weight loss? You get up early to hit the gym, you do your best to drink enough water and eat a balanced diet. Yet, find that you’re still struggling to lose weight?! Before you throw in the towel, try sleeping on it!
Research on Sleep and Weight Loss
Evidence1 suggests that men and women who report sleeping less than 7 hours per night are more likely to struggle with weight gain or being overweight or obese. The results of a 24-month sleep study suggested that sleep quality and quantity were both significant indicators to achieving weight loss success in the randomized participants. In other words, the body needs adequate rest in between your daily activities, career and community demands as well as working to digest your food.
But how much rest is enough? The recommended sleep duration by the National Sleep Foundation is between 7 and 9 hours each night.1 However, sleep duration among children and adults is declining worldwide. This could be a factor for the raising rates of obesity in the United States. The data analysis of NHANES (nationwide demographic researchers) demonstrated a strong correlation between higher BMI (15,16) as well as higher rate of obesity in adults who experienced less than 7 hours of sleep each night and children who experienced less than 9 hours a nights.
Weight Loss and Cortisol
There are several reasons why less sleep can increase the pounds. For example, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people were staying up later, late-night snacking increased AND they were more likely to choose high-carb snacks.2 Nutritional science on the other hand suggests that cortisol (a stress hormone) signals your body to conserve energy to fuel your extended waking hours. Cortisol is going to ensure you store extra fat to survive the extra waking hours.
Sleep's Effect on Insulin
Another stubborn hormone responsible for weight gain is insulin, which helps turn sugar into fuel for your cells. When your body is not able to fully process the sugar and starches you eat, it stores them as fat. In fact, researchers found that in a matter of 4 days of insufficient sleep, the body changes the manner in which it processes insulin by 30%. Even when calorie intake remains the same, reducing the rest-period will affect weight loss by 55% if an appropriate sleep schedule is not maintained.
Do note, sleeping more than 9 hours per night will not necessarily help you lose more weight. However, your metabolism becomes dampened when your sleep is interrupted (hello 2 am wake up with a racing mind). Increased cortisol from stress and insufficient sleep as well as decreased insulin are two major factors that contribute to a plateau in your weight loss attempts. If this sounds like you, follow the tips below or set up an appointment to get personalized recommendations to support your longterm healthy weight loss.
Sleep Tips for Weight Loss
- Reduce bright light exposure an hour before bedtime. Shut down your computer, cell phone, and TV for the day.
- Design a restful space and use it only for relaxation purposes. Only two things should happen in your bed room and they’re not working or eating.
- Prepare your mind for rest before your body lays down. Take a warm bath, meditate, or read yourself to sleep.
- Stick to a schedule. Allow yourself to wake up and retire at the same times every day. Do your best to keep this practice on the weekends as well as see a boost in immunity and energy as a result.
- Allow time to fully digest. Avoid eating meals, caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime. Ideally, when the sun is down, the kitchen is closed. This supports your circadian rythm and healthy digestion.
- Enjoy a dark bedroom. Darkness cues your body to release your natural sleep hormone melatonin, while light suppresses it. Remove lights and electronics from the bedroom and ensure no artificial light comes in through your windows.
For more personalized information on how to improve your sleep, get started with Elevated Consulting today!
Big shout out to Dietetic Intern and Dietitian to be Fatimah Israr for helping to write this wonderfully informative post!
Thomson C, Morrow K, Flatt S et al. Relationship Between Sleep Quality and Quantity and Weight Loss in Women Participating in a Weight-Loss Intervention Trial. Obesity. 2012;20(7):1419-1425. doi:10.1038/oby.2012.62
Does Sleep Affect Weight Loss?. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/
sleep-and-weight-loss#1. Published 2021. Accessed September 27, 2021.