Tired young woman wondering about the importance of sleeping well in weight loss

The importance of sleeping well in weight loss

Written on April 14, 2023 by Theresa Vuskovich, DMD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

Sleeping well is important for your overall health and can influence your ability to lose weight. Sleep deprivation increases your risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and depression.[1,2] When you're on a weight loss journey, it's easy to focus on diet and exercise and not prioritize sleep. However, a recent study suggests better sleep can help you achieve your weight loss goals. [3] Why is sleep important for weight loss? In this article, you will learn the importance of sleeping well in weight loss and how to improve the quality of your sleep.

The definition of sleeping well

The average adult needs at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Sleeping well is not only about how much time you spend asleep but also about the quality of your sleep.[4] A good night's sleep involves staying asleep throughout the night and cycling through all stages of sleep.[4]

At night, we cycle through light and deep sleep stages. Each stage of sleep restores the body, particularly the brain's ability to process and remember information. Let's take a closer look at the stages of sleep [5-8]:

  • Non-rapid eye movement (non-REM or NREM): NREM sleep encompasses the first three stages of sleep. NREM sleep stages 1 and 2 are periods of light sleep occurring within the first 90 minutes of falling asleep. In NREM stage 3, you are in a deep sleep, which is essential for feeling refreshed in the morning and may also play a role in memory formation.
  • Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep: REM sleep is the fourth stage of sleep when your brain activity reaches waking levels. During REM sleep, your procedural memory (how to do something) is formed.

Sleeping well means sleeping for at least 7 hours a night, sleeping continuously during the night, and cycling through the stages of sleep. Although more research is needed to understand how sleep affects weight, current research indicates that sleep can affect your self-control, hormones, and metabolism.

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Sleep affects your self-control

Besides memory, sleep can also influence other cognitive processes, including self-regulation or self-control. Sleep supports long-term health by restoring the nervous system and reinforcing self-control; an important component of weight loss. [9] With self-control, you can rationalize your daily choices to achieve your weight loss goals. A lack of sleep and self-control can lead to poor diet and exercise choices.

Sleep affects your hormones

Lack of sleep can negatively affect your hormone levels, specifically ghrelin and leptin. Leptin regulates appetite and satiety, collaborating with another hormone, ghrelin.[10] Leptin reduces your appetite and promotes weight loss, while ghrelin boosts your appetite.[10] Research suggests insomnia can lead to greater ghrelin levels, and lack of sleep can reduce leptin levels. [10]

Sleep affects your metabolism

Additionally, sleep deprivation increases cortisol, which can cause weight gain.[11] The hormone cortisol increases blood sugar levels by releasing stored glucose.[11] When you don't get enough sleep, your blood sugar levels rise, and your risk of diabetes increases. [10,11]

Insufficient sleep makes you tired during the day, causing you to become sedentary and demotivated to exercise.[11] Exercise is crucial to boosting your metabolism and processing glucose effectively. Without sufficient exercise, your metabolism may slow and predispose you to weight gain.

Tips for sleeping well

If you are having trouble sleeping, the following tips can help [5,6]:

  • Get some sun: Daylight reinforces your sleep cycle.
  • Relax before bed: Take a warm bath, read, or find a relaxing activity.
  • Create a room for sleep: Dim the lights, keep the room cool, and avoid loud noises.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule: Varying your bedtime or waking time can disrupt your sleep cycle.
  • Exercise daily: Exercise supports your internal clock and helps you sleep better Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day, but not right before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine: Caffeine disrupts your sleep-wake cycle and keeps you awake.
  • Limit light before bed: Exposure to artificial light at night can disrupt your sleep cycle.
  • Keep naps short and early in the afternoon: Long naps may delay your bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine at night: Nicotine can keep you up at night, and alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycle.
  • Don't lie in bed awake: Read or listen to music if you cannot sleep until you feel tired.
  • Consult a healthcare provider: If you are struggling with sleeping well and weight loss, speak with a healthcare provider.

Weight Care+ with Everlywell

Weight Care+ is a weight management program offering support throughout the weight loss process. Weight Care+ includes virtual care visits with a healthcare provider who can offer guidance on weight loss and sleeping well. Your healthcare provider will create an individualized plan for you, which may include medication. However, medications are prescribed based on clinical judgment and are not guaranteed. Weight Care+ helps you get your weight down to a science.

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  1. Sleep and Chronic Disease. Cdc.gov. URL. Accessed April 16, 2023.
  2. Papatriantafyllou E, Efthymiou D, Zoumbaneas E, Popescu CA, Vassilopoulou E. Sleep Deprivation: Effects on Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Nutrients. 2022;14(8):1549. Published 2022 Apr 8. doi:10.3390/nu14081549. URL
  3. Kline CE, Chasens ER, Bizhanova Z, et al. The association between sleep health and weight change during a 12-month behavioral weight loss intervention. Int J Obes (Lond). 2021;45(3):639-649. doi:10.1038/s41366-020-00728-8. URL
  4. Fry A. Healthy sleep: What is it, and are you getting it? Sleep Foundation. URL. Published October 16, 2018. Accessed April 16, 2023.
  5. Sleep, learning, and memory. Harvard.edu. URL. Accessed April 16, 2023.
  6. Suni E. What Is Circadian Rhythm? | Sleep Foundation. Sleep Foundation; 2020. URL
  7. Brain basics: Understanding sleep. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. URL. Accessed April 16, 2023.
  8. Suni E. Stages of Sleep: What Happens in a Sleep Cycle | Sleep Foundation. Sleep Foundation; 2021. URL
  9. Pilcher JJ, Morris DM, Donnelly J, Feigl HB. Interactions between sleep habits and self-control. Front Hum Neurosci. 2015;9:284. Published 2015 May 11. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00284. URL
  10. Mosavat M, Mirsanjari M, Arabiat D, Smyth A, Whitehead L. The Role of Sleep Curtailment on Leptin Levels in Obesity and Diabetes Mellitus. Obes Facts. 2021;14(2):214-221. doi:10.1159/000514095. URL
  11. Hirotsu C, Tufik S, Andersen ML. Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep Sci. 2015;8(3):143-152. doi:10.1016/j.slsci.2015.09.002. URL
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