The Key to Weight Loss Isn't Just Diet and Exercise

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you're trying to lose weight, you've probably been paying a lot of attention to what you eat and how much you exercise. It's great when everything is going right and you're losing like you expected. But it's frustrating when you feel like you're working so hard but aren't getting the results you were hoping to see. What could possibly be going wrong?

Our bodies are very complicated, so it's not always just about activity and food. There's another magic ingredient that can help or hinder your weight loss efforts. What is it? Sleep.

Ohio State University dietitian Shirley Kindrick says that getting a good night's sleep is a key part of the weight loss equation. She finds that many people trying to lose weight are sacrificing sleep for exercise. Lack of sleep causes hormonal changes which can cause carbohydrate cravings, and also makes it more difficult to find the energy for a good workout. Because lack of sleep has been linked to Type 2 diabetes and weight issues, Kindrick advises her clients that sleep is just as important as exercise when it comes to weight loss.

"Kindrick says most adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night. Studies have shown that people who slept five hours per night were 73 percent more likely to become obese than those getting seven to nine nightly hours of sleep."

If you're getting 5 hours of sleep per night and want to work up to 7, do it gradually. Making changes all at once can be difficult for your schedule and sleeping patterns. For example, getting up 15 minutes later and getting to bed 15 minutes earlier can be a small step toward a better night's rest.

Looking for 7 Hidden Ways to Get Better Sleep? Take the Sleep Quiz to find out how much you know about getting the rest you need.

Do you get enough sleep? If not, do you think it impacts your weight loss progress?

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EVIE4NOW 3/6/2020
I am getting a bit better about my sleep habits. Not great yet but getting there. Report
I agree that sleep makes a big difference in weight loss. There are several great tips within Spark People on how to get better rest. A couple that worked for me were - eliminating caffeinated drinks after breakfast, and incorporating exercise throughout the day. Even walking helped. Once I got my sleep rhythm under control, the weight came off much easier. Report
MYDIETINFO1 1/19/2020
Sleep is one of my issues with weight loss. Trying to sort out issues with my thyroid and that will help with sleep a bit at least. Report
FRAN0426 12/1/2019
For myself I am getting better sleep once I got my bi-pap machine. It isn't always 8 hours a night, but much more sleep than before. Yes, I do believe not getting enough sleep does hurt with weight loss. Report
CECELW 10/29/2019
Often times I wake up but can't get back to sleep Report
Interesting. I get plenty of sleep despite insomnia that often derails me going back to sleep during the night when I awake. I simply sleep in later, most days that's not a problem. Or take a power nap if needed. O
More cultures should value a siesta.
Some great information. I don't have that issue, it must because I try to work out 2 hours every day in some form. Report
Thanks for the information Report
Thanks Report
Great post thank you Report
Thanks for the great article! Report
Little sleep = little done. Report
I am trying to get to bed earlier. I generally don't get to bed until after midnight. I am shooting for 11:30 pm. Maybe eventually I can get down to 11:00 but that would be optimistic and probably my lowest limit. I have serious problems with late night eating. Obviously going to bed would help eliminate that and help with other things discussed in this article. Report
This is area I struggle with. Report
Well, I guess that is one good thing about having Chronic Fatigue & Immune Dysfunction Syndrome... the amount of sleep I get! Unless I am suffering from th occassional bout of insomnia, I average 11 hours/day. Unfortunately this doesn't leave me with many hours to get other things done, but that is another story... Report
Since adding daily exercise to my life I have been struggling to get to bed at night and struggling to wake up in the morning. Once I get going I'm fine but getting going at a reasonable time is tough. Report
This is a huge issue for my. My husband works till midnight and I cannot sleep till I know he is home, and I have to be up for 7am. We usually talk about the day for an hour. And we have a 4 year old that likes to wake us up in the middle of the night too as he crawls in to our bed with us. But 7 am is wake up time when our older son does not have hockey at 5:30 am. We alternate taking him in to play (and he plays for 3 different teams, so it is usually 3 times every 2 weeks). My husband goes back home and sleeps from 11-2:30 Report
For me: less sleep = less motivation Report
In the summer, I feel refreshed after 7 hours of sleep. But in the winter, I need at least 9 to feel rested. Report
I think the main key is state of mind, attitude and fortitude Report
My concern is broken sleep. I usually fall asleep for 2-3 hours and then wake for sometime up to an hour or longer. This happens sometime several times during the night. Since I am retired if I sleep late in the morning it is not a problem, overall I still probably get 6-8 hours of sleep. Does not getting a continuous
eight hours of sleep also have the same effect. Report
This is a big problem for me! Report
Well that is one of the things I am doing right I guess. I nirmally get at leats 8 hours every night. =) Report
I'm very fortunate because I definitely get enough sleep. Report
The less sleep I get the hungrier I am and the less motivation I have to exercise. Report
I just wonder if any studies have been done on new mothers. I AM one (my son is just over a month old), which is why I ask. Even though -- I hope, at least -- the sleep deprivation doesn't go on forever, it does go on for at least a few months, so I wonder if that impacts health in the long run. I've actually been doing pretty well on the exercise and eating, but am averaging anywhere from two to six hours of sleep a day. Have already lost the pregnancy weight, but don't feel particularly healthy and I'm sure the lack of sleep has a LOT to do with that. Report
Actually I am not sure...I sleep anywhere from 3-5 hours get up fall back asleep after staying up for 45-120minutes and possible up a second time with the same effect. On a good day I may get 7-8 hours but broken up, certainly not straight 7-8 hours. My husband may get up occasionally (hardly ever twice in one night) but is back to sleep within 10 mins or less. And yes, I am overweight and until just recently was considered obese. I been dealing with this for years, I even tried talking to my doctor about it but it did not really make a difference. I am still not sure if broken up sleep is as bad for you as lack of sleep. Report
I'm a little skeptical. I worked nights for 6 years and was able to lose 30 pounds, while getting 4 hours of sleep. I worked afternoon shift for 6 years and was able to lose 20 pounds, while getting 7-8 hours. I am now working day shift and have been for 10 years, and sleep 7 hours a night. I am having a hard time losing weight this time around, probably due to menopause and thyroid issues. I think people can get by on less sleep and still lose weight. Report
I know not getting enough sleep may have been a contributing factor in my weight gain. I was working nights for 5 yrs. and never getting more than 4 or 5 hours of sleep. I was always hungry, and needed the food to have the energy to keep going. Now I get plenty of sleep, have energy to spare after losing weight. Report
I get enough hours of sleep, but I had a sleep study done a couple of years ago and it showed that although I do not have sleep apnea, I don't have any deep sleep. They sent me on my way without any answers, so I'm still struggling to find the reason. I do have asthma and chronic pain from degenerative arthritis, so it's likely these are the cause, but I don't know for sure. Report
I am a weekend weight loser too. I also thought it might be that I get more sleep, but I've often wondered if it was less stress. Report
when i initially lost 52lbs back in 2007, i KNOW getting good sleep made all the difference in the world. it also gave me the energy i needed for my workouts. Report
I go to bed and try to get at least 8 hours of sleep. Sometimes I do and then sometimes I have nights when I wake up alot and feel all washed out the next day. I know the nights that I do not sleep well are caused by my being a chronic pain person. Report
I have been saying this til I am blue in the face!!! :) The scale drops on weekends when I get my 9-12 hours instead of my 6-8 hours...I know my body needs it and my workouts are WAY better when I am rested! :) I LOVE SLEEP. Even my boyfriend laughs and says I am "sleeping away the pounds"! Report
This would make a lot of sense. I know I already have hormonal issues, and I have serious sleeping and fatigue issues. Maybe I'll have to work on it and see how it goes. Report
Sleep - well I could very easily sleep for 10 hours - no problem. You could have a brass band play at the foot of my bed, and I'd not hear them. Having MS gives you fatigue, but on average I sleep 8 hours a night. When the boys were little and not sleeping through the night, it was not easy.........glad that's over with, but I feel for those of you who only get 5 hours a night. Sometimes when I'm hungry at night, I just go to bed, read and the hunger goes........ Report
My work schedule is such that I don't need to deprive myself of sleep. I go to bed at bed time, at the same time (give or take and hour), and wake up about 6 hours later. Nothing wakes me up, no alarm, no niosy neighbors, I just wake up. And once I'm awake, I'm awake unless I take something.I would love to get 8 hours of sleep once in a while. Report
I found myself in front of the refrigerator late last night thinking I was hungry and decided to go to bed instead. Report
With fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions, I NEVER get more than 5 hr. on any given night and those hr. are not consistent. I have tried all the recommendations and unless the pain and stiffness are controlled some day, I'm going to be sleeping (or not) sleeping the same. Report
I've found that toward the end of the week, as I get more tired, my cravings increase and my eating tends to take an uptick toward the high end of my calorie/carb ranges. Interesting to read that this isn't just a fluke or my imagination!
C~ Report
I would like to hear from someone else who suffers from fibromyalgia and get their feedback. Report
I am also a sleep deprived lady. I have fibromyalgia and it is very hard to get a good nights sleep. I also have chronic fatigue[ this goes along with fibromyalgia], so I find myself searching for carbs to help me find some energy. Report
I would love to get more sleep, but my 6 month old son doesn't sleep through the night yet. I haven't had more than 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep since July. I sure wish there was a way I could change this factor! Report
Boy this hit home today. I slept about 8 hrs over the last 3 nights. I am in menopause and have had a career change. I don't HAVE to get up early, so I don't so I stay up later. It is so true about keeping on some kind of normal sleep schedule all though I definitely do not agree with getting up on non work days at the same time as work days. That is when I catch up on sleep. Anyways, for those of us with hormonal issues, I do take a compounded hormone made with bioidentical hormones that natural pharmacists have to do. Find a OB/GYN that is familiar with them and a pharmacist. They can be tweaked to the smallest degree. I have an appt soon to get tweaked! Report
NO, I definitely do not get enough sleep and you don't even want to know the extremes to which I have gone to try to get more.... valerian, NOT - metformin - SOMETIMES, sleeping pills - Sometimes, hot bath - sometimes, hot milk - sometimes, sex - sometimes, reading - sometimes, music - sometimes.... but have yet to find anything that works all the time! Report
ZORBS13, you might be a person who doesn't need much sleep, but 4-5 hours per night seems that you have way too much going on in your life and u r not giving enough to yourself. Lack of sleep takes a toll on your body that will catch up with you with time. I have five children, so I know about NOT getting enough sleep when they were small. For years I never slept all night, so I know how it is. Report
Was relieved to find out that sleep apnea and weight gain have a correlation. We are just beginning to accept medical facets of over weight and not just :last of self control" That there are many aspects to it. Report
I know I need more sleep, and discussed this with my doctor. I'll try the Sleep Challenge again - didn't get through it the first time. Report