The Relationship between Sleep and Weight Loss

Sleep is an essential but often overlooked part of a healthy lifestyle. Experts recommend getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night and with good reason. Our body repairs itself and flushes out toxins while we sleep and our mind creates and consolidates our memories during this time as well. Along with a proper diet and exercise, sleep also has a hand in sustainable weight management.

The body burns calories for all the various processes it undertakes. This includes sleep as well. Sleep occurs in cycles and each cycle has four stages. Of these four stages, three are Non-Rapid Eye Movement Stages (NREM) and one is a Rapid Eye Movement (REM). The NREM Stages have decreasing levels of activity at each stage, that is, your heartbeat slows, body temperature drops and your breathing slows. Consequently you don’t require much energy in these stages and thus don’t burn many calories. In the REM stage, the amount of activity in the body increases. Hence more calories are burnt during this stage. The amount of calories burnt is actually still less than when you’re awake in spite of this. However, this extra amount has a hand in the metabolization of fat whereas the calories burnt from staying up all night doesn’t. As a result, sleep contributes towards weight loss.

Sleep has a hand in appetite regulation as well. The hormones that regulate appetite in the human body are called ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a hormone which signals hunger and it is released into the body by the stomach. Leptin is another hormone released into the body by the fat cells and it signals fullness. Normally, ghrelin levels shoot up before an established mealtime or when fasting. After a meal, leptin is released into the bloodstream to signal fullness. While sleeping, the body requires less energy to carry out its functions. As a result ghrelin levels are reduced till the next meal. However, when you don’t get enough sleep, the body operates with the same energy requirements as when you’re awake. This causes the body to release an excess of ghrelin leading to an imbalance between the levels of ghrelin and leptin in the body. Due to this, you end up having a tendency to snack or eat bigger portions to satiate your appetite. In addition, the exhaustion from the sleep deprivation makes you more likely to give into your cravings for high calorie foods and skip out on workouts. Repeating this pattern frequently results in unwanted weight gain or a lull in weight loss progress.

With this knowledge, what we need to do next is figure out how to sleep better. Quantity is an easy fix. You can just set a time 7-9 hours before you want to wake up and try to fall asleep at that time. Key phrase; fall asleep. Not get to bed. However, the quality of your sleep depends on the things you do before and the conditions you set for the time you are asleep. 

One thing you should do is turn off anything with a screen an hour before you go to bed. You can then use this hour for a nighttime ritual full of activities that calm you down leading up to going to bed. During this ritual, make your environment as conducive to sleep as possible by making your sleeping area as dark as you can and as warm or as cold as you want it to be. It also helps to avoid consuming caffeine at least six hours before you go to bed.

As we can see, an inadequate amount of sleep every night turns weight loss into a frustrating ordeal. However, taking your sleep requirements seriously can help you stay on track with your weight loss goals.

-Sridhar Iyer

Div.1,  FY B.Sc

2 thoughts on “The Relationship between Sleep and Weight Loss

  1. Raju Iyer says:

    Nice read with some takeaways. Thank you Sridhar.

  2. rajuiyer says:


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