There may be more to getting a good night’s sleep than catching up on some beauty sleep. Over the years there have been numerous studies on the subject of sleep and how it affects the body’s ability to function properly. However, a recent study has shown that for people looking to lose weight, getting enough sleep at night may help.

Studies have shown that if you sleep less than seven hours a night, you are more likely to have trouble losing weight. One of the main reasons behind this is due to certain hormone levels in the body. Insufficient sleep increases the levels of the hunger hormone (ghrelin). The role of ghrelin is to increase appetite and fat production and helps your body during the growing process. Getting too little sleep also lowers the levels of a hormone (leptin) that makes you feel full and makes you stop eating. During the night leptin levels are high, telling your body it does not need to eat, and drops during the day when you are awake telling your body to eat. Not getting enough sleep affects these hormones and may lead to overeating and weight gain. The study found that people who slept longer at night (more than 7 hours) had a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who slept less.


When people were sleep deprived, they were found to eat almost 300 calories more a day than those who got more than seven hours of sleep. The study also found that women ate more than men when sleep deprived than when they were well-rested, and that when women were sleep-deprived, they ate an average of about 31 more fat grams a day. Men’s fat intake didn’t change that much.

Eating 300 calories more a day may not seem like that much, but over a week this adds up to 2,100 calories which can lead to significant and unnecessary weight gain. One pound of fat (approximately 0.5kg) is roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories, so eating an extra 500 calories per day would cause you to gain about one pound per week. This confirms other research that short sleep duration is associated with eating more and could lead to obesity and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sleep needs vary from person to person, and many people don’t know exactly how much sleep they need. In general most young adults need seven to nine hours a night. Some people can function with less sleep, and others may need more. Sleep needs decrease with age to about seven to eight hours a night. Not only do you want to ensure you are getting enough sleep, but that you are getting a good night’s sleep.

Top 3 diet & exercise related tips to getting a good night’s sleep

1. Limit caffeine – coffee in the morning is no problem, but most people feel the effects of caffeine later on in the day. Caffeine is a stimulant which temporarily increases the production of adrenaline and blocks sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain. Generally the effects of caffeine last about 5 to 7 hours in the average adult, less for children and smokers, and can last up to 13 hours in pregnant women! Coffee is not the only culprit. Tea, chocolate and cola can also contain enough caffeine to keep you up at night.

One for the road...maybe not!

2. Keep moving – Exercising not only helps you lose body fat and burn calories, but it may also help you sleep better. People who exercised woke up less during the night and fell asleep faster than those who didn’t. Be careful not to exercise too close to bed time. Since it is a stimulating activity it can also keep you awake.

3. Avoid the “one for the road” mentality – alcohol is the number 1 aid that people use to help them fall asleep, however, this only works temporarily. Once your body has metabolised the alcohol, its sleep inducing powers wear off and you’ll often be awakened. Drinking alcohol too close to bedtime can also worsen sleep apnoea and snoring, not to mention consuming extra calories right before going to sleep.

Sleep deprivation makes you more susceptible to overeating, which is something worth considering if you’re trying to lose weight. When you’re tired, you’re also less motivated to exercise. Both the higher calorie and fat intake and possibly being less active could be detrimental to your heart over the long term. Of course what and how much you eat is still the main factor for weight gain or weight loss. However, for those trying to lose weight getting enough sleep may give you a head start!

Written by BKR