Warning: Poor Sleep Can Ruin Your Weight Loss Plans

April 25, 2013 at 9:08 AM

Could a lack of sleep be causing you to pile on the pounds? Research is showing a clear link between weight loss and sleep deprivation. In fact, just a few nights of inadequate sleep can result in some people rapidly gaining weight. It’s caused by a hormone imbalance that leads to changes in your behavior, appetite, and metabolism. Luckily, you can make changes to your lifestyle to combat sleep deprivation and reach your weight loss goals.

How Lack of Sleep Affects Metabolism and Appetite

Lack of sleep causes your body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn stimulates your appetite. A craving for foods high in fat and sugar is fine if you can burn off the extra energy. However, if you fail to do enough physical activity to compensate for the extra calories, your weight loss plans will fall apart.

Changes in your glucose metabolism triggered by sleep deprivation will also cause your body to store extra calories as fat instead of burning the calories for energy.

What Studies Say About Sleep and Weight Loss

A study from Colorado Boulder University indicated that a lack of sleep results in your body burning calories less efficiently. As the body burns more calories in REM sleep, it’s important to enter this phase of sleep as often as possible during the night.

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University studied over 68,000 women over a 12-year period and showed that women who regularly slept for five hours or less every night weighed more than those sleeping at least seven hours.

People who sleep less are more likely to crave simple carbohydrates like sugar and refined flour because of the short-term energy boost. In 2004, Scientists at the University of Chicago highlighted this link between a lack of sleep and carbohydrate cravings and concluded that weight loss was more manageable when participants slept well.

Even when you’re not hungry, sleep deprivation can spoil your weight loss goals. Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden discovered that men who were sleep deprived would choose larger portions of food, even after they had just eaten breakfast.

While sleep deprivation can affect weight loss in men and women, the relationship between sleep and weight loss is more complicated for women. The monthly hormonal fluctuations due to menstruation can disrupt the sleep patterns of many women. A National Sleep Foundation poll found that more than 70 percent of menstruating women experience disrupted sleep, making weight loss even more of a struggle.

How to Burn More Calories in Your Sleep

Obviously, doing more exercise in the day will go a long way toward helping you achieve your weight loss goals, as your body continues to burn calories for many hours after a workout, even in your sleep.

Try to avoid carbohydrates for at least six hours before bed. A body low in carbohydrates will use calories to burn fat for extra energy. Caffeine and alcohol should also be avoided to promote an undisturbed night of sleep.

A cooler room at night will also force your body to burn more calories to keep warm, so encourage weight loss by turning your thermostat down in the cooler months.

Sleep and Weight Loss: The Bottom Line

To make your weight loss journey easier, most experts would recommend a good night’s sleep. Put simply, the more quality sleep you get, the fewer calories you will consume, and the more calories you will burn off. Generally, you need about 7.5 hours of quality sleep every night. Along with a sensible diet and exercise routine, you’ll find it easier to lose weight, have more energy during the day, and look healthier on the outside too.


ajcn.nutrition.org (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

aje.oxfordjournals.org (The American Journal of Epidemiology)


Share this article
Written by: Michal Vilímovský (EN)
Education: Physician
Published: April 25, 2013 at 9:08 AM
Next scheduled update: April 25, 2015 at 9:08 AM
Our site uses cookies to provide services, personalize ads and analyze traffic. By using this site you agree. More info