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How does sleep support weight loss?

When trying to lose weight, the amount of sleep we get may be just as important as diet and exercise. Unfortunately, many of us are not getting enough sleep.

Recent data shows that about 28% of UK adults are sleeping fewer than 7 hours most nights. Interestingly, mounting research evidence shows that sleep may be the missing factor for many people who are having difficulty in losing weight.

1. Getting a full night’s sleep may help you make healthier food choices.

Lack of sleep alters the way your brain works and can affect decision making. This may make it harder to make healthy food choices. It also appears that the reward centres of the brain are more stimulated by food when we are sleep deprived.

One study found that sleep deprived participants had greater reward-related brain responses after viewing images of high calorie foods. Interestingly, they were also more likely to pay more for food than those who had adequate sleep.

2. Going to sleep earlier may help you avoid the late-night snacking.

Pushing our bedtimes later means we are staying up longer, this creates a larger window of time for eating, especially if it has been many hours since dinner. If we ate dinner at 6:00 p.m. and stay up until 1:00 a.m. every night, we are likely to be hungry at some point between dinner and bedtime and this leads to a greater risk of snacking.

If we are already experiencing sleep deprivation, we are more likely to opt for less nutritious options and certainly indulge in that dreaded late-night eating. This is because sleep deprivation can increase your appetite and craving for high calorie and high fat foods.

Interestingly, research shows late-night eating is associated with greater weight gain, a higher BMI and decreased fat oxidation, making weight loss more difficult.

3. Sleep helps to keep you active.

Sleep and physical activity have a close two-way relationship. A lack of sleep decreases physical activity, and lack of physical activity may lead to worsened sleep. Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise can decrease the time it takes you to fall asleep and increase the overall quality of sleep across all age groups. A lack of sleep can cause daytime fatigue, making us less motivated to exercise and more likely to snack or prevent us from moving off the sofa.

Being sleep deprived will mean that we burn fewer calories, compared to when we have a full night's sleep. This means we are less likely to achieve our calorie goals or have addition calorie burn through being active.

Finally, lack of sleep can negatively affect your active performance by decreasing our:

  • reaction time

  • fine motor skills

  • muscular power

  • endurance

  • problem solving skills

Lack of sleep may also increase the risk of injury and delay recovery. Ultimately, getting enough sleep is key to staying active and gaining that calorie burn.


If you’re trying to lose weight, not getting enough sleep can sabotage your efforts.

A lack of sleep is linked to poorer food choices, increased hunger and calorie intake, decreased physical activity and ultimately weight gain.

If your weight loss efforts are not producing results, it may be time to examine your sleep habits. Though individual needs vary, most adults need around 7–9 hours of sleep per night.

Getting some much needed rest may make all the difference in helping you achieve your slim transformation goals.

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