Will getting more sleep help me lose weight?

Kirsi Bhasin
Nutrition & Dietetics
Depriving yourself of sleep is one of the worst things you can do for your health. Aside from lowering both your physical and cognitive abilities, sleep deprivation can cause immune system deficiencies, deficits in memory, and, very pressingly, weight gain. In fact, when trying to lose weight or even just live healthy, getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t typically operate the way it should. Inadequate sleep can disrupt the hormones that regulate your appetite, making you eat more than usual. Studies have shown that you can eat up to 500 extra calories a day when you don’t get enough sleep. In addition, sleep is essential for regulating your metabolism, and without adequate sleep you don’t burn as many calories the next day. Decreased calorie burn, coupled with increased calorie consumption, can actually cause steady weight gain over time.

Although each person’s needs tend to vary, the average adult requires between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. When attempting to lose weight, these needs are especially important to keep your energy levels up, your appetite in a healthy cycle, and your metabolism regulated. 
Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics
Not getting enough sleep will work against weight loss efforts in several ways. First, when chronically fatigued or tired you tend to crave sweets. This is because your body and mind is in need of a stimulant, something to wake you up. When in reality what you need most is a nap. Second, when you don’t get enough sleep your body produces more ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hunger stimulating hormone that has been shown to be over fifteen percent higher in people who have gotten as little as two hours less sleep.
Getting adequate sleep helps to normalize impulses, such as appetite, making it easier to follow healthful choices. Sleep naturally fights stress and therefore reduces stress hormones that cause weight gain, such as cortisol. Also, if you sleep early you won't get the midnight munchies, which can derail any diet.

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with increased feelings of hunger and body weight as well as depression, diabetes, and heart disease.

While most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly, approximately 25 percent of American adults are trying to get by with 6 or less hours. If you are routinely sleep deprived and struggling with your weight, getting adequate sleep may be one of the easiest ways for you to reduce both your hunger and your waistline.

For the sake of your waist, try these tips from the National Institutes of Health and the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Avoid alcoholic drinks in the evening. While having a drink within an hour before bed may help you fall asleep sooner, it will also disrupt your sleep cycle during the night. Alcohol can cause you to awaken in the middle of the night and make returning to sleep a nightmare. With all this tossing and turning during the night, rather than sleeping, you’ll likely feel exhausted the next day.
  • Watch your caffeine intake during the day. Your intake of mammoth-sized coffees, energy drinks, and sodas as well as other caffeine-containing beverages, could be fueling your alertness in the evening. Try cutting back gradually on the amount of caffeine you consume, especially in the afternoon, by switching to decaffeinated alternatives.
  • Don’t exercise too late in the day or in the early evening. According to the National Sleep Foundation, strenuous exercise in the evening, even up to 3 hours before bed, can cause a rise in your body temperature and alertness, making it difficult to fall asleep. 
  • Avoid large meals late at night. Eating too much too late can cause heartburn and also make you feel uncomfortable when lying down. 
  • Relax before going to bed. A warm bath may be just the thing to help get you in the mood to sleep.
We’ve learned a lot about the connection between sleep and weight. Sleep helps regulate hormones that govern appetite and metabolism. It helps keep judgment sound and willpower strong. A full night of sleep allows you to wake feeling energized and ready to jump into your day, hopefully with calorie-blasting exercise. What’s more, during REM sleep, the body actually burns more calories than when you’re awake lying in bed.

Hit that snooze button and sleep in a little later tomorrow. It's one of the best kept secrets to dieting success.

Yep, according to research, getting enough sleep (eight or more hours every single night) helps your body burn more fat when you're dieting. Maybe you should head to bed earlier, too, for good measure.

In a small study, getting less than the optimal amount of sleep each night had detrimental effects on a group of dieters. After two weeks, the dieters who had spent a mere five and a half hours sleeping each night lost 55% less body fat compared with the dieters who spent eight and a half hours snoozing nightly. And here's the really big surprise. Not only did the light sleepers burn less body fat, but also their weight loss efforts carved away substantially more lean body mass than did similar efforts by the good sleepers. Not good, because muscle helps keep your metabolism fired up, so you naturally burn more calories throughout the day.

But that's not all. The short-duration sleepers also had higher levels of ghrelin in their system -- a hormone that induces hunger. And it seems that extra ghrelin triggered an energy-starved body to retain fat and calories rather than burn them. Interestingly, both groups of dieters lost the same amount of weight. But given the difference in muscle loss and appetite hormones as well as in calorie burning, it's easy to speculate that the good sleepers are better set up for long-term weight loss success.

Leopold D. Galland, MD
Internal Medicine
Research done at the Laval University in Quebec found that 7-8 hours of sleep each night, on average, was associated with relatively higher levels of the hormone leptin (your body's natural weight control mechanism). In contrast, getting less sleep meant lower levels of leptin and higher body mass index in the study.
F. Michael Gloth, III
Geriatric Medicine
Getting adequate sleep alters the biochemicals in the body that are associated with hunger and the accumulation of fat. For example, a naturally occurring chemical in the body called leptin reduces hunger and decreases fat cell formation. Getting adequate sleep increases the concentration of leptins, and, ultimately, this makes it easier to lose weight.
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Working 24-36 hour shifts and eating in the day and the middle of the night led me down the path to becoming morbidly obese. Working night shift has always been a challenge and for all of those who do work nights look around you and see how many of your are overweight. Then think about how much sleep you/they are getting. Are you getting 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If not there is a good chance that your hormones and metabolism are out of whack. Reorganizing my sleep habits and the way I was eating helped me lose those stubborn pounds I had been carrying around for years. If I could do it so could you....Make sure you eat 5- 6 times with small frequent meals and healthy snacks during your waking hours. Avoid eating 3 hours prior to going to sleep and make sure you arrange your schedule for adequate time to sleep. Your energy level will increase and your food cravings will diminish.

I personally believe people who sleep more lose more weight simply because they are awake less.  When you are sleeping you cannot think of food and therefore temptation is decreased.  If you are up late or working late you will think of food or the oral fixation of keeping yourself awake will turn to food.
Yes, studies show that people who average between 8-9 hours of sleep a night weigh less, have less body fat, and eat less than people who only average 5-7 hours of sleep a night. Scientists still aren’t sure how sleep resets the body’s internal hunger and fat burning drives, but studies have consistently shown that getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night is optimal for maintaining a healthy body weight.
Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Medicine
Sleep can help you lose weight, although scientists are not sure exactly how more sleep resets your hunger thermostat or changes your metabolism. A recent study compared weight loss between a group that followed a low calorie diet and had only an average of 5.5 hours of sleep per night versus a group that followed the same diet and averaged 8.5 hours of nightly sleep. It may surprise you that not only did the people with more sleep have more weight loss, but they also had greater reduction in body fat and in hunger.
Make sure you are getting at least eight hours of sleep to maximize your success with losing extra pounds.

Leigh Vinocur, MD
Emergency Medicine
Not too may people get those prescribed eight hours of shuteye. Not only does not enough sleep add stress to you life, research show it can add pounds too. However, don’t worry, a recent study found that in napping for short periods even without going into REM or dream state sleep you can achieve a phase of sleep called slow wave sleep. This phase in napping can keep brains working and solving problems. So go ahead, sneak in some ZZZZs  and take a nap, as well as once in while sleep in and don’t feel guilty!
Jacob Teitelbaum
Integrative Medicine
Obesity is an epidemic and has many causes. One of them is that the average night’s sleep has dropped from 9 hours a night to 6. 75 hours a night over the last 100 years, and sleep is responsible for many weight and appetite controlling hormones, such as the growth hormones, leptin, phrelin and ghrelin. So can you really sleep your way to skinny? Many studies suggest you can.

It most definitely can if you aren't getting enough sleep, or if the sleep you are getting isn't quality sleep. Without adequate sleep (usually 6 to 8 hours a night) the body is affected in numerous, undesirable ways. We become unmotivated, lethargic, irritable and anxious or depressed. Lack of sleep can also reek havoc on the immune system, which makes us more susceptible to getting sick. Not getting enough sleep is liable to stress anyone out, which can cause changes in hormone levels such as cortisol. When our hormones aren't properly regulated, the body isn’t likely respond to diet and exercise properly. This vicious cycle will make losing weight more difficult than it needs to be. Proper amounts of rest and recovery are just as important to losing weight as diet and exercise are. Make it a priority to get some good quality zzzz's!

Absolutely!  Sleep rejuvenates the mind and body and is necessary for healthy functioning.  You need energy to start each day with enthusiasm, to make conscious, healthy choices, and to keep up with your workouts.  Sleep regulates your mood, helps you think clearly and stay on task.  Aiming for 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night is essential to your health lifestyle!
Dominique Adair

Yes!  Research shows that we make more of the hunger stimulating hormone called Ghrelin when we are sleep deprived.  Also, many people eat far more "treat/snack" types of foods late at night when in fact they could be resting and restoring their bodies (and not eating) with sleep.  Turn off the TV, put down the book (and the chips) and give your body the sleep it deserves.  Just think how much better your workout will be after a good night's sleep!

Increasing our activity levels often plays a major role in losing weight.  Part of this increase may even be a structured exercise routine that includes cardiovascular training and resistance training.  We will always get the best results when we can give our best effort to our exercise routines. In addition, our results will not happen during the exercise but during the time between our exercise routines when we should be feeding our body and giving it rest.
What this means is that getting an adequate amount of sleep will allow us to have the energy to give our best effort during our workouts, and also allow us to recover between workouts to build us back better and stronger than before. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Sorry, all-night workaholics: People who sleep more lose more weight. Not only does less sleep mean that you have more hours to gobble down Goobers, it also means that you have more hormone stimulants for food. Get more down time (as long as but not over nine hours a night) and you'll better be able to downsize.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.