If you regularly cut back on sleep, know that you’re potentially missing out on some easy wins for your weight loss efforts! In fact, did you know a lack of sleep can be undermining your fat loss goals?
Gone are the days when a lack of sleep was seen as being committed to your goals – nowadays, it’s all about optimising quality and quantity of sleep. After all, sleep is your ultimate ally in hormonal health and keeping away from eating those naughty snacks during the mid-afternoon slump!
What do the studies stay?
A study that compared two overweight groups on 1450 calories a day (a deficit). The group who slept for 8.5 hours a night ended up with half of their weight loss being fat. The group who slept only 5.5 hours had only one-quarter of their weight loss as fat. They also lost more muscle!
Another study measured results when sleep was reduced by just an hour each night for five nights of the week. It found similar results to the study above, and concluded that ‘catch up’ sleep on the weekends isn’t enough to make up for sleep deprivation during the week.
In yet another study, women who slept five hours or less per night had a 15% higher risk of being obese, compared to those who had seven hours of shut-eye. This was a study with around 60,000 followed for 16 years!
Your hunger hormones and sleep:
Sleep deeply influences your appetite hormones, without you even knowing it!
Leptin is a hormone that helps to regulate your eating – it decreases appetite, so you know when to put the fork down. By promoting feelings of fullness, you can keep your weight in check. Ghrelin is the troublesome one that tends to be stimulated more with lack of sleep – it’s your ‘hunger hormone’, turning on that hungry switch.
The combination of higher ghrelin and lower leptin means that you’re going to be feeling hungrier, and be less likely to have the willpower to commit to your calorie controlled diet. You’re also more susceptible to delicious calorie-dense, sugary and fatty foods!
Your metabolism and sleep:
Sleep is also important to regulate your metabolism. Did you know that by skimping on your sleep quality and quantity, you can be negatively affecting your metabolism?
When you eat, your body releases insulin, which assists to process the glucose in your blood. Insulin management is not only important for your waist line, but a host of health issues too. Having sleep deprivation can impair your body's response to glucose. For example, a scientific study showed that after only one night of sleep deprivation (less than four hours of sleep), the participants had an impaired insulin response. Pair this heightened insulin resistance with those cravings for hyper-palatable snacks and you have a recipe for fat loss failure!
The solution is clear – get a better sleep! It could be the best ‘fat loss pill’ you’ll ever take. Remember that when trying to lose fat, you also need to be in a calorie deficit – more sleep won’t work on it’s own! If you’re struggling to get extra shut-eye, know that by making it a priority, you can start to have deeper sleeps and more energising days.
Tips on getting a better sleep tonight:
Start a sleep schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time
Shut off electronics at least 30 minutes before you go to bed
Make sure that you eat your last meal 2-3 hours before bed
Don’t drink too much water close to bedtime
Avoid caffeine after 12pm
Avoid alcohol late at night – it might help you get to sleep, but it’ll lead to a more disturbed rest!
Spend time relaxing before bed – do light reading, stretch, meditate, or a gratitude practice
Keep a journal so you’re writing down everything that bothers you before you put your head on the pillow
Keep the temperature in the room between 16-19 degrees Celsius
Think of sleep like nutrition for your brain! By making tweaks to your sleep habits, you can not only start to feel great every day (and not reliant on caffeine!), you will have the ultimate tool for successful fat loss. Go to the gym at least 2-3 times per week, make sure you're active every day, and eat whole foods that your body needs to perform at its best. If you're sleeping less than 7 hours per night, make it a priority, and take note of how your eating habits and energy improve!
Acpjournals.org. 2020. Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts To Reduce Adiposity | Annals Of Internal Medicine. [online] Available at:
Emma Sweeney and Ian Walshe, T., 2020. Why Sleep Is So Important For Losing Weight, According To Researchers. [online] ScienceAlert. Available at:
PatelSR, Malhotra A, White DP, Gottlieb DJ, Hu FB. Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. Am J Epidemiol.2006; 164:947-54.
The Nutrition Source. 2020. Sleep Deprivation And Obesity. [online] Available at: