Sleep and Weight Loss


Sleep and Weight Loss

The Sleep and Weight Loss Connection

With our busy 24/7 lifestyles, many of us simply do not get enough sleep.  In fact, lack of sleep so common that we often don’t even think about it as we gulp down another coffee to get us through the morning (or, if you’re following our anti-inflammatory diet plan, you may be gulping down polyphenol rich green tea instead!).

We know that reducing calories has a big impact on weight loss, and that the right diet and exercise can help too.  Did you know that research suggests that getting enough sleep also plays a role in weight loss?

Studies on Sleep and Weight Loss

There have been many studies on the association between sleep and weight loss.  Here are a few examples:

  1. In one study, participants decreased the amount of calories they consumed for two weeks and got either 5.5 hours or 8.5 hours of sleep per night.  By the end of the study, those who got more sleep each night lost more body fat than those who got less.
  2. In another study, 123 overweight or obese adults went on a calorie-restricted diet for 17 weeks.  Similar to the first study, the amount of sleep was linked to how much weight they lost by the end of the study.
  3. In a third study, women who slept 5 hours per night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain (an increase of 33 pounds or more) and 15% more likely to become obese over the course of the 16-year study, compared to those who slept 7 hours a night.  And, those women who slept 6 hours per night were still 12% more likely to experience major weight gain, and 6% more likely to become obese, compared to women who slept 7 hours a night.*

How Does Sleep Deprivation Impact Weight Loss?

The connection between sleep and weight loss is twofold.  First, when you are sleep deprived, your metabolism is slower, and second, you tend to eat more.

Getting adequate sleep appears to play an important role in one’s metabolic rate; that is, the amount of calories you burn while resting. In fact in the last study cited above, the women who were getting less sleep didn’t appear to be eating any more than the women who were getting more sleep, yet they gained significantly more weight!

A second connection between sleep and weight loss is that sleep deprived people may tend to eat more.  A study recently presented at the American Heart Association showed that those who were permitted to get only 2/3 of their normal amount of sleep a night ate greater than 500 more calories per day than those who were able to get a full night’s sleep.

This urge to eat more when we are sleep deprived has a lot to do with our hormones.  When you are sleep deprived, you have more ghrelin, a hormone that tells you when to eat.  Sleep deprived people also have less leptin, which is a hormone that tells you to stop eating.

How much sleep do you need to lose weight?

Weight loss sleepOn average, we need about 7.5 hours a sleep per night.  We’re all different and some may need a little more and some a little less.

Having trouble falling asleep? Here are a few tips to help you get the sleep you need:

  1. Keep a regular routine, going to bed and rising at a similar time each day.
  2. Turn off the computer well before it is time to sleep.  Exposure to the light from the computer screen can hinder falling asleep.
  3. Keep a journal at your bedside to write down things you want to remember the next day.  A daily journal can also be a helpful tool to keep track of your foods, activities and how much sleep you get each night.
  4. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.  It can lead to lighter, poorer quality sleep.
  5. Exercise.  Exercise improves sleep.
  6. Avoid big meals and rich foods close to bedtime.

We hope you enjoyed this week’s blog.  Now it’s time for us to turn out the lights and get some sleep ourselves:)



*American Thoracic Society, International Conference, News release, San Diego, May 19-24, 2006



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The Gene Smart Team

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