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The important role sleep can play in your weight loss journey

Sleep is one of the most important pillars of good health.

Written by
Imogen Kars
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 22, 2024
min read
The important role sleep can play in your weight loss journey
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Losing weight can be challenging — that's why some research suggests that getting a solid night's sleep might hold the key to improved weight loss.

While the medical community as a whole is still ironing out the ins and outs of the link between sleep and weight loss, there's no doubt that there are some sort of weight loss benefits that come with a better night's rest.

So, how exactly can sleep aid weight loss? We're here to dive into everything you need to know.

Why is sleep so important?

It's no secret that sleep is one of the most important pillars of good health and well-being [1]. In fact, it's the only part of the day where your body can rest and repair, which is why sufficient sleep is crucial for wellness.

Sleep makes room for a myriad of important bodily functions, including physical recovery and repair, brain development, cardiac function and metabolism. It also allows your mind to recharge and process information, helping you to feel better, think more clearly and concentrate better.

A lack of sleep or bad sleep habits can lead to problems with thinking, concentrating, memory, reaction times and mood amongst other cognitive issues.

On the other side of the spectrum, poor sleep can lead to long-term physical health risks including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease [2].

What are the health outcomes related to sleep?

Research suggests that the cumulative effects of sleep loss or poor quality sleep are associated with many health disorders including depression, heart attacks and even strokes. And, while poor sleep wasn't always linked with poor health, the science community has uncovered a lot over the past 10 years.

According to research, less than seven hours is considered sleep loss. When people are sleep deprived, they are very likely to experience effects on their cardiovascular, endocrine, immune and nervous systems [3].

Health effects can include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance
  • Cardiovascular disease and hypertension
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse.

What's the connection between sleep and weight?

Over time, as people got less sleep, scientists began to hypothesise about a connection between poor sleep and the ongoing obesity epidemic. Now, numerous studies suggest that sleep deprivation or poor quality sleep may lead to metabolic disorders including weight gain [4].

The debate is still a little murky about the exact nature of this relationship, but we can be sure that there is definitely a positive correlation between good sleep and a healthy body mass index.

Let's dive into a few of the cornerstone concepts that researchers believe link sleep and weight.

Does lack of sleep increase appetite?

One of the major hypotheses behind the connection between poor sleep quality and weight gain is that sleep affects your appetite.

Your appetite is controlled by neurotransmitters called ghrelin and leptin — ghrelin is the hunger hormone, and leptin contributes to feeling full and your body naturally increases and decreases the levels of these neurotransmitters during the day, which signals your need to consume [5].

So, how might sleep duration increase your appetite? Well, sleep deprivation might actually affect the body's regulation of these neurotransmitters. One study found that men who got four hours of sleep regularly had increased ghrelin and decreased leptin levels, in comparison to those who got 10 hours of sleep regularly.

Other studies also found that sleep deprivation can affect food preferences — sleep-deprived participants gravitated towards foods that were higher in caloric intake and carbohydrates.

On the other hand, other researchers believe that the connection between sleep and appetites might be found in the body's endocannabinoid system.

Does sleep increase metabolism?

As the very important chemical process that converts what you consume into the energy you need to survive, all of your collective activities — from breathing to exercising, and everything else in between — are a part of your metabolism [6].

Activities like exercise can increase metabolism, but sleep cannot. In fact, your metabolism actually slows down about 15 percent during sleeping hours, reaching its lowest point at around nine every morning.

Research shows that sleep deprivation can lead to metabolic dysregulation, which is associated with oxidative stress, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.

What's the connection between sleep and obesity?

While the connection between sleep and obesity may still be a little fuzzy, there's no doubt that sleep deprivation can have a major impact on your ability to maintain weight loss or keep a healthy body mass [7].

Research does show that people getting less than six hours of sleep per night are more likely to be diagnosed with obesity than those who get enough sleep.

While it may be challenging to garner a complete cause and effect, there's no doubt that obesity itself can increase a person's risk of sleep disorders including sleep apnea, or other conditions like depression.

While it's not clear whether obesity causes sleep loss, whether sleep deprivation causes excess body mass or a mixture of the two, it's definitely worth getting adequate sleep either way.

Addressing weight concerns go far beyond sleep, which is why Pilot's Metabolic Reset Program was created — to help you tackle weight loss in a way that works with, not against, your body.

This program combines modern medication, which works to reset the body's metabolic patterns, alongside 1:1 health tracking and lifestyle coaching, to help you lose weight and improve your health in the long term.

How to improve your sleep during weight loss

There's no doubt that great sleep health can improve your weight loss journey, so why not implement a few of our favourite sleeping tips and tricks? Getting a good night's sleep can make a world of a difference for overweight adults on a mission to reduce their body fat [8].

You might want to try:

  • Keeping a regular sleep routine: Major changes in your sleep schedule can cause your metabolism to dip and reduce your insulin sensitivity, meaning your blood is more likely to be easily elevated by sugar.
  • Sleeping in a dark room: Artificial light exposure while sleeping or while falling asleep can cause major problems for your sleep duration.
  • Avoiding food intake before bed: Your eating patterns can determine whether you get a good night's sleep — try to avoid eating late as it may reduce the success of your weight loss journey.
  • Reducing stress: Chronic stress can lead to poor sleep as well as weight gain in a myriad of ways, especially considering eating can be used as a vice to combat stress.
  • Waking up early: Folks who go to bed late tend to have a higher caloric intake than those who go to bed early and wake up early.

What other options are there?

With an astounding one in three Aussie men experiencing a lack of sleep, Pilot's clinical sleep support can help you get fall asleep and stay asleep. Our sleep treatments help to regulate sleep and aid in relaxation to help tackle the stresses that can keep you awake.

You'll love falling asleep faster, improving your sleep quality and feeling more energised when you wake up.

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