You Snooze, You Lose: Sleeping More Could Help You Weigh Less

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We all know how important quality sleep is to our health, but most of us tend to get less of it as we grow older. Stress, lifestyle issues and the hormonal fluxes of menopause can all disrupt our sleep quality and quantity, and the effects may be more far reaching than just leaving us feeling tired.

New research has explored the relationship between sleep and weight, and there's compelling evidence that people who don't consistently get seven to eight hours of sleep a night may be at a higher risk for weight gain. A review of the literature that focused on sleep and weight studies found a relationship between short sleep duration and increased weight over time. The relationship was strongest for children, an interesting finding in light of the childhood obesity problem in the US. The Nurses Health Study found that women who slept less than five hours a night gained more weight over a 16-year period than women who slept seven hours, and these findings weren't affected by adjustments for physical activity or dietary consumption. Although the increase was considered modest (1.14 kilogram), it's still a significant finding.
An interesting study on obesity and factors that affect weight loss followed 472 obese adults in a six-month intensive weight loss program. Part of the study tracked sleep amounts as well as stress levels (measured using a stress scale). The results of the study showed that those who had longer sleep times and lower stress levels at the beginning of the study had higher success in weight loss. People who reported sleeping between six to seven and seven to eight hours at the beginning had a greater chance of losing 4.5 kg more than the participants who slept 6 hours or less, and surprisingly, 8 hours or more.

The big question is, what causes the increase in fat gain in short sleepers? There are several theories that suggest sleep is important for normal hormonal function, and there may be a disruption in hormones that control appetite or metabolism in people who are chronically sleep deprived. There may be an association between sleep deprivation and increases in ghrelin (a hormone that increases appetite and affects fat and energy storage) that result in weight gain over time. In addition, people who are sleep deprived may misread fatigue signals as hunger or just lose their ability to control caloric intake when tired, but either way, sleep appears to affect how our bodies take in and store calories.
The key point is that sleep may be as important as diet and exercise in a weight loss program, and improving your quality and quantity of sleep could make a difference.
How many hours of sleep do you get per night? Do you have any tricks to get more sleep that have worked for you? Tell us!

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See more: weight loss sleep


I have found that sleep is vital to my overall health. I workout a minimum of 2 hours everyday and keep an active lifestyle. So I get 7-8 hours of sleep every night with no problems. Report
MILPAM3 3/30/2021
The older I get, the less I sleep. Report
Since I retired from my job, I don't have much trouble getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night. It was harder when I worked. Report
Great graphic..need to copy and post ..on fridge and in exercise room!! Report
Thanks Report
Thank you. My doctor insists I get enough sleep, because of depression, and so he prescribed me a sleep aide. I now get 8 to 8 and half hours of good sleep, absolutely no side effects. Love it! Report
Sleep is absolutely important. Report
Yup Report
I can't remember the last time I slept for 8 hours. My normal sleeping time is 6 hours Report
Since using a Bi-pap machine for over a year and a half now, my sleeping has markedly gotten better. Sure there are nights that don't go as well, but those are further apart these days Report
thank you Report
good information Report
In order for me to get 8 hours of sleep, I have w to take Tramadol. I take it 3 times a day. Sometimes I take it once in the morning and twice at night. Report
I need to improve the quality and quantity of my sleep. Report
I have recently developed issues with insomnia, and I have found that it is definitely harder to maintain my target weight range. Report
Great information. Report
4 hours of sleep nightly. Report
I have to get out of bed and read in the living room when I cant sleep--then I do sleep when I get back to bed-- Report
So far I'm still blessed to be able to sleep. Thank God for that! Report
I seldom get 6-8 hours. I alternate between an insomniac's 1-2 and a hypersomniac's 16-30 and over the last several months have not been able to sleep at night so sleep thru the day unless I have an obligation. It's partly my fibromyalgia but I'm beginning to feel like I'm turning into a vampire. Report
I get about 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night. Sometimes more. I see them briefly mention weight gains and weight loss difficulty can be associated with too much sleep, as well. I have a lot of factors to consider, so I can't really blame the sleep in and of itself, but I admit, that little statement got me rattled. I love sleep! It would be terrible if it was being detrimental to my weight loss efforts. Report
I would LOVE to get an unbroken night's sleep. But between needing to go to the loo at least twice a night, and my partner's snoring, I can't see it ever happening again for the rest of my life.
"who slept 6 hours or less, and surprisingly, 8 hours or more." Interesting theory! Not so sure I believe it but it would explain certain aspects of my life and health! Report
It's probably not possible, but I think it would be interesting to study the association of WHY people don't get enough sleep, thus having more problems with weight loss. My dear mother was a lonely divorced woman, an RN who worked double shifts (this was in the days of 8-hour shifts) who never got enough sleep and overate continually, even after being diagnosed with diabetes. (Yes, she eventually became obese, not just overweight, and that was AFTER the diabetes diagnosis.) I suspect the same stresses that caused her to overeat contributed to her lack of sleep. I also think that being tired makes it more difficult to be self-controlled as well as more difficult to identify fatigue or hunger that needs to be satisfied. Report
I get anywhere between 5-7 hrs (depending on what time I go to sleep or if I get up 45 min early to workout before I go to work)....but occasionally broken sleep thanks to a well house broken loving dog! I can sacrifice 5 min lost rather than wake up (and accidentally step into) a mess:-) Report
I dont sleep well at night and I consider myself lucky if I get 5-6hrs unbroken sleep. It's a pain in the neck as some day's I just have to have a nap!!! Report
I can't get more than a couple straight hours at a time due to hormones, bladder and pets ;o) I aim for 6 hrs per night and probably average 4-1/2. Report
I am an 8 hours of sleep kind of girl. Don't get it you don't want to be around me. Report
I have to get up every 2 hours or so to go to the bathroom I can not remember the last time I slept the whole night thru. Report
Menopause has not been kind to my sleep habits. I can fall asleep at the drop of a dime, but staying asleep is a challenge. Most nights I wake up repeatedly and shift position or roll over. I am thinking when I lose additional weight, this will improve. Great blog - Thanks! Report
Night shifter by nature - and I compare my sleep to a dolphin, dipping into sleep, cresting up to a light doze and full wakefulness, hoping to dive deeper again. I'm off for a week of vacation, and STILL can't sleep more than 2 or 3 hours at a time without waking. Report
I can't sleep nights a lot of the time so I sleep during the day time. Not good. The article was excellent. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
I have a job that has me sitting about 8.5 hours that does not include my lunch or break time when i am also sitting so i have to go to the gym every day for some physical activity, I live in the south so if the heat won't get you the humidity surely will so if i don't get to the gym there is no hope of me falling asleep because i have done nothing to tire my body but i also have to because if i am at the gym too long i feel enegized and can be up all night long!
On the nights i can't sleep i will take some liquid melatonin and that usually does the trick and i know this sounds strange but sometimes if i switch my pillows to the foot of the bed and sleep in the opposite direction i can be asleep in minutes! Report
7-8 hours every night without fail. I'm a monster if I don't get that much sleep.... Report
I do shift work and if I am really lucky I get 6 hours of sleep.
after I come home most of the time I nap for about 3 hours but I really miss
the days I used to get my 8 hours of sleep! Report
I have not really had a problem with sleep . About 10 yrs ago, I was the caretaker of my father who had Alzhiemer's. The stress for 2 1/2 yrs was awful, and my sleep pattern changed. I was no longer getting my full good night sleep. It took me about a year to go back to a normal pattern of sleep. So I realized there was a relationship between sleep and stress levels. Report
I can sleep anywhere any time without any problem. But, I'm always up first thing in the morning no matter how late I go to bed. Report
I've always been a bit of a night owl, 5-6 hours of sleep a night, but lately, it's taken its toll on me. So I've started shutting things down as soon as the new is on and pick up a book. Reading ALWAYS makes me sleepy...which, on one hand sucks, because I can never finish a book.... but it really helps calm me before bed. And I try to have everything as dark as possible. My ceiling fan is going year round to help keep my room cooler. I also stopped taking afternoon naps. I am now getting about 7-8 hours of sleep and I feel great the next day! Report
I've read a couple recent studies that pointed out that in the past, our ancestors had a broken sleep cycle. They went to bed early and slept a few hours and then woke for a functional amount of time. They then slept again. I've struggled with insomnia for years and after reading these studies, they made sense. Now I go to bed and when I wake up, I read, work or do a few chores before going back to bed. I honestly feel better and more balanced, and don't have the insomnia angst I used to have. The only time I have a full 8 hour night is if I take sleep aid, which leaves me feeling yucky in the morning. Report
The absolute number one thing for me is darkness. Get rid of chargers and gadgets that glow in your room. Cover up things that you can't get rid of (electrical tape over an "on" light indicator on that air purifier fan that provides clean air and white noise for instance). For those little bits of light that sneak under a door if you have someone who stays up later than you, a sleep mask is great (shop around until you find one that does what you want; cheap isn't necessarily better). Don't be afraid to get a programmable thermostat so you can drop the temperature a couple of degrees for the night. Cooler at night makes a difference for the circadian clock too. Another part of darkness, is to turn off lights after dinner around the house to start programming your brain to end the day (no computer unless you install a [free] redshift program to limit blue light coming in from the monitor, limited TV). Report
when did this u.s. site - sparkpeople - begin using the europea/british measuring system to talk about people's weight kilograms as opposed to pounds? "those who... will lose 4.5kg"?? o.k. then. Report
great Report
Sleep is not something I have a problem with. My dh says I should've married the bed :) Report
i know that sleep is very important in weight loss, but i tend to spend alot of time in the bedroom watching tv, and even eating. one thing that has really helped me maintain my sleep schedule and a better life is keeping the bedroom for ONLY sleep and having a bedtime! :) Report
I am a perfect example of this, sleep is so important.
Got 4 hours of a sleep everyday for a couple of months didn’t lose a pound. Got at least 7 or more lost 10 and counting.
Every time I read one of these and click on the spark points, I'm getting booted off the site! Could someone please look into this? It's happened 4 times so far. Report
I find I sleep better if I'm working out regularly, effectively managing stress, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, & avoiding over-stimulation right before bedtime. Here are some things that have worked for me.

Physical activity burns off the excess hormonal responses to stress. Stress causes the body to produce excess hormones like cortisol & adrenaline. Physical activity uses these hormones, which can really help balance you out. I notice with new or changed-up work-outs, my body tells me (more like demands) when it's time to rest. I've concluded the new, physical challenges requires my body to sleep so it can divert its resources to building new, lean muscle. Sounds like a win/win situation to me. :D

To help manage stress, I find keeping a Feeling Journal & a To-Do List beneficial. The Feeling Journal is different from a biographical journal in that it's totally private, & I can vent/purge whatever I'm feeling. I've made arrangements for it to be destroyed without anyone reading it should something happen to me, so I don't worry about censoring myself. This kind of self honestly can be very cathartic too. Writing things down gets the emotions, which come from the sub-counsious emotional parts of our mind, out to where our conscious mind can "see" them clearly & choose how to best react. Also if there's something I need to do, I add that to my To-Do List. Once I know it's on my list, I stop worrying about trying to remember it. I'm able to just let it go. Using both a Feeling Journal & To-Do List frees up my mind so I don't keep replaying these wake-provoking thoughts.

I've noticed keeping a regular sleep schedule conditions my body to fall asleep & wake up at certain times, often without using an alarm clock. I also limit what's done in bed. I don't eat, read, or even watch TV there. Again this is to condition my body so that when I climb between the sheets, my body primarily expects to be falling asleep. So I often nod off quickly.

Avoiding things that stimulate the senses shortly before bedtime help too. We all know to stay clear of caffeine. Things like bright lights, like from a TV or computer monitor, or even minty toothpaste, can over-stimulate & make sleeping elusive. I find indulging in quiet, relaxing activities about a half hour before bedtime to be very conducive to nodding off. Be sure to have all your evening ablutions, like brushing your teeth, done ahead of time. The relaxing activities that work well for me include candle-lit baths, reading a novel (not a thriller or suspense one), & listening to soft music.

For those rare occasions when I'm really having trouble falling asleep, & I've already done the above, I'll get up & make a cup of valerian root or chamomile tea. I'll either listen to soft music, or read a relaxing novel while sipping my beverage somewhere other then in my bed. This has worked for me every time.

Challenging physical activity stimulates my body to divert its resources to adapt to the new physical demands. Managing my thoughts & feelings by keeping a totally private journal & To-Do lists liberates my mind from unproductive mental churning. Also avoiding over-stimulation & conditioning my body to fall asleep when I climb into bed often circumvents the need to imbibe somnific herbal teas. Sweet dreams. Report
I'm at the opposite end, where I'm concerned I sleep too much sometimes. Most nights I get about 8-9 hours of sleep - that seems to be my natural requirement for sleep. Getting 7 is okay for one night, but I will be sleepy the next night. I've always been a sound sleeper, and never really want to get out of bed in the mornings. But am I getting *too much* sleep? Can that affect me in similar ways to too little sleep? I'm wondering whether there are studies on this, too... Report
I don't sleep nearly enough, plus I work night shift! More and more studies show the negative impact of lack of sleep and working the third shift on health and weight gain. I do feel that I have more problems controlling my food intake when I am seriously sleep deprived. Report