Sleep More, Lose More? How Sleep Affects Weight Loss

Sleep can help or hurt your waistline. Here’s why (and how) to get more restful sleep.

Black woman sleeping cozily in her bed

Medically reviewed in June 2020

Updated on October 1, 2020

Getting enough sleep is important to maintaining a healthy weight, preventing injury and feeling better. To get the health-protective benefits, you need high-quality sleep that lasts for at least seven uninterrupted hours.

The fact is, though, hardly anyone gets enough good sleep. What’s more, being overweight is associated with poor sleep quality and shorter sleep duration. And studies show that hormonal fluctuations place women at risk for poor sleep quality.

Why is getting enough good sleep fundamental to achieving weight loss? Hormones regulate your appetite, your body’s response to stress and how well your body metabolizes the food you eat. When you do not sleep enough, your hormones can change in a way that makes you gain weight. This is because lack of sleep makes the following things happen:

  1. You feel hungry.
  2. Your body is stimulated to store fat.
  3. You feel more stressed and less able to cope.
  4. Your will power is reduced.

All of this adds up to mean you eat more calories when you don’t get enough sleep and your body puts those extra calories into fat storage.

Here’s the good news. When you get enough sleep, you are:

  • More attentive
  • Better able to organize
  • More likely to sustain the willpower required to make healthy changes

There’s more good news—exercise improves sleep economy. That means women who run or walk get better quality sleep.

So, how else can you really get better sleep? Try these simple tips: 

  • Go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Get up at the same time every morning.
  • Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom. This includes cell phones,
    computers and televisions.
  • Don’t let pets sleep in your bedroom.
  • Avoid drinking caffeine after 2 p.m. It’ll keep you awake!
  • If you decide to drink alcohol, do so before 8 p.m. All forms of alcohol shorten the sleep cycle.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Avoid napping.

Carmen Patrick Mohan, MD, FACP, is an internal medicine physician at HelloHealth who prescribes food and exercise as medicine. She specializes in cardiometabolic risk factor reduction with a focus on women.

Ruth M. Parker, MD, MACP, is professor of medicine, pediatrics and public health at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. For over two decades, her work has focused on research, education and policy efforts to advance our nation’s health literacy.

Jeff Galloway is an elite runner with over 50 years experience in developing, evaluating, teaching and using Run Walk Run. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Galloway Productions, author of more than 30 books, monthly columnist for Runner’s World magazine, creator of national training programs and owner of two running specialty stores.

From the book The Woman's Guide to Health: Run Walk Run, Eat Right, and Feel Better by Jeff Galloway, Carmen Patrick Mohan, MD, and Ruth M. Parker, MD. Copyright ©2017. Reprinted with permission from Jeff Galloway, Dr. Carmen Patrick Mohan and Dr. Ruth M. Parker.

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