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Healthline Connects

Study Roundup: Can Sleeping Help You Lose Weight?

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The Gist

sleeping womanFor most people, a weight-loss routine entails eating nutritious foods and exercising. Sleeping isn’t often part of the plan. But a growing amount of research shows that getting enough sleep is crucial for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Studies show that insufficient sleep makes you feel hungrier, by both increasing the hormones that stimulates appetite, Ghrelin, and decreasing the hormone that makes you feel satiated, Leptin.

Sleeping fewer hours can also lead to a higher calorie intake in a day. The more hours you’re awake, the more opportunities arise for eating or drinking caloric beverages -- especially late at night, when people are prone to snack or drink alcohol.  On top of that, feeling tired can make it harder to get enough exercise.

The Expert Take

In an editorial published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal this week, experts suggested that weight-loss strategies should be more personalized, and sleep should be part of the lifestyle package needed to maintain a healthy weight.

“The ‘single solution’ approach never works over the long term,” said Dr. Jean-Philippe Chaput. “Weight loss is not the main battle for most people. Keeping the weight off once lost is the real challenge. Adequate sleep is certainly part of the solution, but the solution is much more complex than that and requires permanent changes.”

According to the National Sleep Foundations, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.  But it’s not “one size fits all,” said Dr. Chaput. Genetics and age play a role in how much sleep someone needs to feel adequately rested. Some people do fine on six hours a night, while others need as many as ten. 

Source and Method

Researchers from Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario looked at several observational studies and found that amount and quality of sleep the participants got each night predicted their success in a weight loss program. The findings were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal

Other Research

Several studies have found a link between sleep duration and obesity. One of the largest is the 2006 Nurses' Health Study, which followed the sleep habits of more than 60,000 women for 16 years and found the women who slept fewer hours a night had a greater risk of weight gain and obesity.

A June 2012 study found that sleep could affect weight even at the genetic level. Researchers from the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center found that sleeping for longer amounts of time can override genetic factors that contribute to weight gain.

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About the Author

The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.

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