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Can a good night’s sleep help you lose weight?

Written by Dr Kelly Johnston, Head of Nutrition and Research at LighterLife who is a Visiting Senior Lecturer at King’s College London. Kelly’s research interests are nutrition and gut physiology, obesity management, and the impact of diet on metabolic syndrome and other obesity-related co-morbidities.

Losing weight and keeping it off for life

Losing weight can be challenging as can keeping it off. And there are many additional ways, outside of what we eat and drink, that can help us reach and maintain our goal, but did you know that one of these is how much, and what kind of quality sleep we get?

Can better sleep really be the answer? 

Yes, it’s true that resting more (and better), can help you manage your weight more successfully.

Whilst the scientific community it still trying to understand the complicated relationship between sleep and body weight, there is emerging evidence showing that not only does getting a good night’s rest contribute towards better weight management and more successful weight loss, conversely sleep deprivation can actually negatively impact this and result in weight gain over time.

And although sleep restriction overall increases energy expenditure because of increased wakefulness, it can also lead to a disproportionate increase in food intake, decrease in physical activity, and weight gain.

Studies support the link between decreased sleep and weight gain!

What we know from epidemiological studies (large observational studies involving lots of people) is that there is a direct association between decreased sleep and increased incidence of type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease and weight gain in general with numerous studies showing that self-reported sleep of less than 6-7 h per night is associated with increased incidence of these.

And to add insult to injury, what’s worse is that whilst reduced sleep over time is clearly detrimental, even a single night of partial sleep restriction is sufficient to reduce insulin sensitivity, which in turn affects the body’s ability to properly handle glucose, which in turn has knock-on effects of appetite (increased) and fat metabolism (more fat storage than utilisation).

Really not great news!

So what are some tips for improving your sleep quality, which can help you in your weight loss journey?

Firstly, keeping a regular sleep schedule is a beneficial thing to do. Try to always go to bed and wake at the same time, each day, if you can. The odd lie-in might feel good after a particularly late night (and on rare occasions won’t do you any harm), but consistent sleep patterns are shown to improve sleep quality overall and prevent disruptive changes in metabolism like decreased insulin sensitivity and increased hunger.

Try to sleep in a dark room and of course reduce white light exposure before bed.

Turning off all electronic devices and engaging in a calming activity like yoga, or reading before bed, can help you nod off in a timely fashion and prevent disruption from too much, unnecessary light which accompanies other activities.

If you feel peckish before bed, try to have a drink instead and avoid eating those late-night calories. Not that late-night calories are inherently worse, but the body handles them differently, and eating late at night can actually make you feel hungrier upon waking.

Try to reduce stress by engaging in mindfulness activities which can help you feel more relaxed and thus more likely have a restful sleep.

To find out how mindfulness can improve your life further click here.