The skinny on sleep: Is your bedtime the secret to losing more weight?

Year after year a new dieting fad rears its ugly head, with each one proving more unreliable than the last. Although it seems that more people are realizing that a sensible approach to weight loss is partially the secret to success, it appears there’s something missing from all of our efforts: tackling sleep deprivation.

Recent media reports suggest that sleep deficiencies compound weight gain. Although this might not come as a surprise to many health lovers, sleep science expert Chris Brantner has solidified what we’ve all long suspected with his recent research. According to his study, those who sleep between five and six hours a night eat 200-300 more calories per day than those who get their recommended number of hours in bed. Over the course of a year, that’s 73,000 to 109,500 calories. Or, approximately 20 to 31 pounds.

Bad sleep habits and weight gain

If you fall into the category of individuals who crawl through the day on minimal sleep, the figures above should act as an excellent wake up call. A year alone could result in almost 28 pounds (two stone) of weight gain, with two years resulting in an astonishing 56 pounds (four stone). So, what is it that’s causing those of us who encounter long-term sleep deprivation to pile on the pounds.

As you sleep, your body produces leptin; a hormone that helps you feel full. With less leptin on board, the day after a bad night’s sleep results in poor eating habits. Additionally, it’s not unusual to feel as though you can offset a lack of energy with a handful of snacks. Unfortunately, those two factors in tandem result in the weight gain Brantner highlights in his research.

Other factors include your brain not resting adequately, which results in you exercising poor judgment over your food choices. Even worse, as your stress levels build you may find it hard to steer away from comfort eating.

Regaining sleep: A brief guide for long-term sufferers

According to the CDC, the number of people getting a bad night’s sleep varies throughout the country. For example, if you live in Hawaii, you belong to a state where fewer than 30% of individuals suffer from sleep deprivation. Head to Colorado and that number jumps to 40%.

As humans, we’re complex creatures. Your reasons for not sleeping properly will vary wildly compared to your colleagues, but there are some basic “sleep hygiene” rules you may want to follow. They include:

  • Making sure you get enough sunlight each day so your brain can tell the difference between day and night.
  • Keeping phones, tablets, and all other backlit screens out of the bedroom.
  • Avoiding caffeine six hours before bedtime, as that’s the amount of time it takes for the substance to leave your body. Minimum.
  • Addressing your stresses throughout the day using mindfulness, yoga, and other relaxation techniques.
  • Avoiding the use of sedatives, which may cause rebound anxiety and can worsen sleep.
  • Exercising no more than three hours before bedtime so you can burn energy without raising your adrenaline levels close to bedtime.

Sleep hygiene is a fine art that will fluctuate according to your circumstances. But, if you use it wildly you can harness its power to accelerate your weight loss. If you’re still suffering, talking to a sleep specialist, approaching your family doctor, or addressing day-to-day stresses with professional help may prove useful. Until then, focus on ways to grab more Zs so your waistline benefits.


About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.