When it comes to weight loss, the “good ol fashion way,’ of incorporating a healthy diet and exercise into your life is usually a good option. But, there is more to it than that and it probably isn’t what you would normally think. Studies have shown that if you sleep more, you are probably able to lose weight a lot faster than someone who doesn’t get enough sleep.

“Lack of sleep has so many ways of leading to weight gain.” says Jean Rafferty Licensed Clinical Social Worker, specializing in eating disorders. “By getting the proper sleep, you’re going to set the chemistry of your body where it needs to be and that’ll help you lose weight.”

So how exactly does sleep connect with losing weight?

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“Research shows that lack of sleep has people consuming 300 calories per day more than people who get the recommended 7.5 hours of sleep per night,” says Rafferty. “If you eat 300 calories extra and 3500 calories is what it takes to gain a pound, then that’s where you’re going to be gaining weight without even realizing it. The effects of not sleeping will also really slow down the body’s metabolism which then cause you to gain weight even further.”


Lack of sleep also triggers cortisol in our bodies. “The cortisol helps increase our appetite which makes us then eat more,” says Rafferty. “And when you’re up later you’re going to be prone to eating and snacking, usually high fat or high calorie foods. When you are up late it also kicks in the ghrelin—the hormone that tells the body that you’re hungry. By not sleeping, it would increase the cortisol which says ‘I want to eat’ and the ghrelin which says ‘I’m hungry’ and again the metabolism is going to cause you to eat more fatty foods.”

REM calories are better burned

If you though you don’t really burn calories in your sleep, you are most definitely mistaken. Not only do you burn calories in your sleep, you burn more in the deeper type of sleep. “They found calories burn more in the REM state, Rafferty said. “So, if you’re not going into REM, that’s another problem. REM sleep is where the body is going to help burn up the calories. If you’re a light sleeper, even people with insomnia, it’s problematic because you never really get to REM.”

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“Seven and a half hours is what is ideal,” Says Rafferty. “That would be the perfect scenario for people to sleep well, eat right, exercise and then the weight should come off.”

That doesn’t mean that if we don’t get exactly 7.5 hours of sleep we are doomed. Our individuality has a lot do with how much sleep we need as well. Often our bodies will alert us, if we are not getting enough sleep. And napping doesn’t always help! “All of us are individual. If you feel like more sleep is helpful to you, it’s really an individual thing,” says Rafferty. “Don’t ever try to make up the time by napping, because that’s really not going to do it. it doesn’t work that way.”

How to Make Good Sleep a Priority

There are many ways to change your lifestyle to promote better sleeping habits. “Try to get into a better routine,” says Rafferty. “Try a relaxing activity like journaling or exercise before sleep. It’s also best to minimize caffeine and sugar because that might keep you more elevated. Go into the bedroom, don’t watch TV, have the bedroom be a place where you can rest in peace and quiet. When you get into the bedroom close the lights, ease into it with mediation or soft music. That always helps.”