Consistently getting enough sleep is an incredibly important part of successful weight loss. Not getting enough sleep for even just one night can have a drastic impact on your body – beyond the fact that more waking hours means more opportunities to eat more than you should. I pointed out lack of sleep as one of the reason why you might be having trouble losing weight and am going to expand on the topic here.
Is it true that you can lose weight simply by getting enough sleep? Well, that depends. Most people need an average of 7.5 hours of sleep per night, and if you’re already getting that, then you wont lose weight by simply sleeping more. If you’re getting 4-5 hours, however, you could definitely lose weight by simply getting more quality sleep.
Even if you don’t lose weight by getting enough sleep, just look at how much weight you can gain (or are already gaining) because of lack of sleep.
Lack of Sleep Causes Major Weight Gain
Studies show that sleep deprived people eat 549 extra calories per day. This means that if you have unhealthy eating habits and poor sleeping habits, you could start your journey to a healthier weight simply by getting enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation can completely negate your weight loss goals for the day (and even cause weight gain) and continued sleep deprivation can cause you to gain more than a pound of fat per week. Lack of sleep is one of the worst things for you and your weight loss. Let me show you what lack of sleep does to your body, step-by-step:
- When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases hormones that increase your appetite
- Lack of sleep changes the way your brain thinks about food, making your body specifically want high-calorie junk foods
- At the same time, you have weakened willpower to resist these foods
- When you do eat something, the same hormones that increase your appetite, tell your body to store these new calories as fat
- In it’s fatigued state, your body not only becomes less efficient at burning fat, but prefers to burn muscle (easy) instead of fat (hard)
- Not only that, but when you’re tired the next day, you’re much less likely to be active or work out
Lack of sleep also increases the risk of diabetes (because it increases the chances of insulin resistance), can increase your blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease.
How Sleep Causes Weight Loss
The simple fact is that consistently getting enough sleep causes weight loss by undoing all the damage listed above, however, let’s go over some general principles anyway.
If you’re asleep, you’re not eating. As mentioned above, you’re not up snacking on high calorie junk foods and are saving yourself up to 549 calories per day. By the way, most of these calories are eaten during 11 pm to 4 am.
Rested people burn more calories. According to one study, well rested people (those who consistently get enough sleep) burn more calories than tired people when doing nothing at all.
Rested people burn more fat. According to a study, well-rested people burn more calories from fat whereas tired people burn more calories from muscle.
How to Sleep for Weight Loss
Getting enough sleep will give you weight loss rewards, but you can’t just sleep more – you have to get enough sleep, better sleep, and more predictably consistent sleep. For some people, sleep comes easy, for others, they need to prepare. If you’re in the latter group, here are some helpful guidelines.
Step 1: Know yourself. Know your body, what it needs, and how different foods (such as caffeine and alcohol affect it). Avoid foods that cause you to get poor quality of sleep and wake up unrested/groggy.
Step 2: Perform some activity. You don’t have to workout or even go for a run, but try to get a walk in, or do some light stretches and aerobic activity, or go for a 30 minute walk. Exerting yourself during the day will help your body want rest more.
Step 3: Unwind before you go to bed. If you’ve ever gotten into bed and felt exhausted but unable to sleep, try listening to some calming music, taking a warm shower or bath, or doing some light stretches to relax yourself. I know it sounds counterintuitive to relax to go to bed, but it works.
Step 4: Consistency is key – Try to go to bed at the same time and for the same number of hours every night. It is recommended that you get between 7 hours and 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
Step 5: Control your environment – Try to sleep in a quiet and dark environment. If that’s difficult for you, use a sleep mask and ear plugs. Our bodies burn more calories during REM sleep than any other part of the sleep cycle.
Step 6: Consistency is key (still) – Try to wake up at the same time every morning (regardless of weekday or weekend). Predictable patterns of sleeping and waking up help regulate our metabolism and energy expenditure.