Have you ever wondered about the relationship between sleep and weight loss?
We all know that sleep is vital for our health, vitality, and energy levels. But does it have an impact on our weight loss efforts? Would not getting enough sleep result in an inability to lose weight?
The truth is, sleep impacts us on many levels, and depriving ourselves can have devastating consequences for us.
To that end, let’s explore how sleep impacts weight loss and what that means for us.
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Sleep And Weight Loss: Everything You Need to Know
Sleep’s most notable effects concern the brain. Specifically, sleep deprivation hinders frontal lobe activity – the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control. When hindered, we are more likely to make poor choices and lose our ability to control our impulses. (1)
While it’s perfectly normal to have the occasional craving for less-than-healthy foods, being well-rested allows us to resist the temptation more easily. In contrast, sleep deprivation hinders willpower and makes us more likely to succumb to that delicious burger at lunch.
The thing is, sleep’s effects go way beyond the brain. Sleep deprivation also impacts our metabolism – how the body functions and where it gets its energy from. Most notably, sleep deprivation prevents us from burning fat and makes us more likely to lose lean tissue while dieting. A study from 2010 perfectly illustrates this. (2)
Sleep deprivation can also trigger a cortisol spike, signaling the body that something isn’t right and we should conserve energy. Add that to the increased hunger (due to elevated ghrelin levels), inhibited impulse control, and a reduced ability to burn fat, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for disaster.
How Does Sleep Deprivation Impact Our Weight Loss Efforts?
Does sleep affect weight loss? Poor sleep and weight problems can sometimes go hand in hand. One of the keys to body wellness is sleep. It is hard to stay healthy and feel energized without enough sleep.
The most significant way sleep deprivation impacts weight loss is that it makes us tired and less motivated. This makes us more likely to move around less and miss more workouts. That alone can lead to significantly lower energy expenditure and a hard time losing weight.
Also, since sleep deprivation makes us feel bad, and this creates strong urges for instant gratification to make ourselves feel better. This can lead to a spiraling effect where you start to lose self-control, resulting in poor and destructive decisions.
We become more impulsive and find ourselves disregarding long-term goals in favor of short-term satisfaction. Anytime your decisions are based on short-term satisfaction and not long-term well-being, that’s never a good place to be.
A typical example here is emotional eating, which can significantly hinder our weight loss or weight management efforts. You likely have found in your own life that when you’re miserably tired, you oftentimes feel an urge to eat your favorite junk food. It’s the fastest and easiest way to find comfort, hence the appropriate name, “comfort food.”
Lack of Sleep Increases Impulsive Food Choices
Besides that, as we discussed above, sleep deprivation hinders frontal lobe activity, where impulse control and decision-making occur. As a result, we find it more difficult to resist our impulses and often make poor choices.
And lastly, the link between sleep and weight loss also impacts the body’s ability to burn fat for energy. In the study we referenced above, when subjects were sleep-deprived, only 20 percent of their weight loss came from fat.
In contrast, when they got to sleep for over seven hours per night, fatty tissue made up half of their total weight loss. With everything else being the same, sleep alone accounted for such a massive difference in fat loss.
How Much Sleep Should You Get
General guidelines recommend that adults aim for seven hours of sleep per night. If possible, aim for eight, although that is hard for many working adults.
A good way to determine how much sleep you need is to try going to sleep earlier for a while and see if you can wake up without an alarm clock in the morning. If you begin to wake up after a certain amount of sleep consistently, you can use that as a general guideline for how much sleep you need.
For some, it might be as little as six or seven hours per night; others might need more than eight to feel great.
Does sleep help weight loss? Not necessarily. If you want to lose weight, you still need to eat right and exercise. However, sleep deprivation does impact your weight loss efforts. So if you want to succeed in your health and fitness journey, make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
Get enough sleep and you’ll have more productive workouts, make fewer impulsive food choices, and feel better throughout the day.
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- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency.
- Nedeltcheva AV;Kilkus JM;Imperial J;Schoeller DA;Penev PD; (n.d.). Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Annals of internal medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20921542/.