Sleep: The Surprising Reason You May Not Be Losing Weight

The Surprising Reason You May Not Be Losing Weight: Sleep
Courtesy of Getty Images

Sleep: Many of us know we need more of it, but we don't make it a priority. We'd rather stay out that extra hour, watch one more episode, or get more done before calling it a night. But if weight loss is important to you, add a good night's sleep to your to-do list!

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every three adults is sleep deprived. On average, we need at least seven hours of sleep a night.

Why Is Sleep So Important for Weight Loss?

There are obvious reasons why sleep deprivation could prevent weight loss. You're less likely to hit the gym if you're tired, and late nights often lead to more eating and poor food choices.

There are biological reasons why sleep deprivation makes weight loss more difficult. Less sleep leaves you physically hungrier. This is because of two hormones: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin signals hunger and leptin stops it.

Studies show that when you’re sleep-deprived, you produce more ghrelin and less leptin. As a result, your body can’t properly use insulin. Excess insulin equals extra fat storage.

Countless studies have shown a correlation between obesity and a lack of sleep. For example, a study out of Harvard shows that women who slept 5 hours or less per night had a 15 percent higher risk of becoming obese then the test subjects who slept 7 hours a night.

So, don’t sabotage your weight-loss efforts by skimping on sleep!

4 Ways to Help You Get a Good Night's Rest

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to improve your sleep habits.

Eat sleep-inducing foods at dinnertime. We’ve all blamed turkey for our exhaustion after a big Thanksgiving meal. Turkey has that reputation because it contains the amino acid Tryptophan, which is known to cause drowsiness. And you’ll become even more drowsy when you pair that turkey with carbs, because they’re also known to make you sleepy.


Try making meatloaf minis with turkey and oats to get yourself into that sleepy state-of-mind. Other foods that contain tryptophan include shrimp, chia seeds, and eggs.

Exercise. Even though you might be tired, exercising will actually help you sleep more soundly at the end of the day. Pick whichever time of day works best for you, but it’s usually best to avoid a vigorous workout right before bedtime. If you're not the gym type, do some house walking! Or squeeze in some calorie-burning right in your kitchen.

Establish a wind-down routine. Become a creature of habit—this way, your body will recognize when it’s time to go to sleep! Maybe sip a cup of tea or take a warm bath—both will raise your body temperature and then bring it down, signaling to your body that it’s time to hit the hay. Spray lavender scent in your bedroom—it's been shown to induce sleep.

Turn off your mobile devices before bedtime. Not only does playing on your phone keep you from winding down, the lights your devices emit may actually interfere with your body's natural circadian rhythms.

Don’t eat a heavy meal close to bedtime. You don’t want your body working overtime to digest your meal when you lie down. This could lead to discomfort, making it harder for you to doze off. Just like with exercise, avoid eating a big meal two to three hours before you go to sleep. If you have one of those days (we all do) and find yourself starving right before you want to go to sleep, eat something light.
Nighty night! 

Was this page helpful?