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Understanding the Link Between Sleep and Weight Loss

Often, weight gain is attributed to factors such as a poor diet or insufficient physical activity. However, new research highlights that weight gain can also be attributed to various other lifestyle choices.

A Nutrients study on weight loss maintenance reveals that sleep deprivation is one of the top factors that increases an individual’s risk of obesity. In fact, a chronic pattern of sleep duration of fewer than six hours a night has been associated with a higher body mass index, indicating that poor sleep quality is detrimental to one’s weight loss efforts.

All that considered, this article will provide a more in-depth discussion of the link between sleep and weight loss, as well as tips on how to get better sleep for improved weight loss.

How are sleep and weight loss connected?

Sleep deprivation affects glucose metabolism

Restricted sleep can affect your glucose metabolism, making your body store more fat. This is largely due to the fact that sleep deprivation can reduce your glucose and insulin sensitivity. As shared by a 2022 Rise Science article on weight management, short sleepers (those who sleep around six hours a night) produced about 50% more insulin and had about 40% lower insulin sensitivity than average sleepers (those who sleep up to eight hours a night).

When your body becomes resistant to insulin, absorbing glucose will be met with some difficulty. As a result, you can end up with excess glucose in your blood, which can be stored as fat in the body (largely around the belly) and ultimately cause weight gain.

Sleep deprivation impacts eating behaviors and food choices

It isn’t clear whether poor eating behaviors and food choices precede and lead to insufficient sleep or vice versa. But the referenced Nutrients study pointed out that a decreased sleep duration can significantly influence food intake. As such, squeezing in more sleep is an effective strategy for natural weight loss. This is because not getting enough rest can cause changes in hormones such as ghrelin and leptin and, consequently, increase feelings of hunger. Insufficient sleep can likewise negatively impact your ability to manage cravings. Without proper rest, your resolve against reaching for foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates may weaken.

How to get better sleep to improve weight loss

1. Steer clear of alcohol before bedtime

Our post listing tips on getting healthy sleep explains that it’s crucial to avoid drinking alcohol before going to bed. This is because alcohol acts as a stimulant that can impede your ability to fall asleep. In addition to that, alcohol is also high in sugar and packed with calories. A 2022 Insider feature on weight gain confirms as much, stating that a single serving of alcohol contains seven calories per gram, compared to four calories per gram for carbohydrates and protein. So instead of a glass of wine, opt for a cup of chamomile tea, as it contains compounds that have a mild tranquilizing effect and can improve sleep quality. Best of all, chamomile tea is loaded with calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin A, which can help aid digestion and stimulate weight loss.

2. Eat more foods that are high in fiber and unsaturated fats

The foods that you consume have a direct impact on both your sleep quality and weight. According to a New York Times feature on sleep patterns, eating foods that are packed with sugar, saturated fat, and processed carbohydrates can cause sleep disruption. On the other hand, those that are high in fiber—such as beans, berries, and whole grains—can promote sound sleep and simultaneously support your digestive health. Aside from these foods, you should also opt for ingredients that have a generous unsaturated fat content for your meals, like fish, nuts, and olive oil. As shown in a 2022 Frontiers report on unsaturated fats, because these compounds can prevent fat mass gain, they’re ideal for enhancing your weight loss efforts.

Understanding the relationship between sleep and weight loss is important as it can help yield positive results in your weight loss journey. By following the tips listed above, you can get better sleep, and achieve your weight goals.


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