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Sleep can can have an impact on weight loss or on gaining weight? Yes, it definitely can!  For a long time, the topic of sleep just didn’t seem to be all that important. Sleep was something that happened (more or less), and if you didn’t get enough, well, then you drank more coffee.

Sleep and weight loss

How well do you sleep? It’s much more important than most of us think…

The good news is that things are changing. We’re finally starting to acknowledge that getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis isn’t something that’s optional, it’s actually essential. Sleep quality is a major part of optimal health and well being.

There’s been a lot of media exposure on this subject in recent years, and the healthcare system is beginning to focus strongly on sleep medicine from both the conventional and alternative viewpoints.

As a myofunctional therapist, this is all music to my ears. I’m always amazed at the number of patients who have problems sleeping. In some case, they just don’t really sleep well at all, and that’s not good!

I’ll be covering sleep in more detail on this site in the near future, but today, I’d like to address a little-known part of the sleep discussion – the fact that a lack of quality sleep can affect your weight.

I’m sure that this idea will be stressful to a number of my readers. After all, with all the other issues related to weight gain, now we have to worry about sleep?

Before we get too far into this article, I’ll say that this isn’t about fat-shaming – this isn’t that kind of article, and I’m not that kind of person. But we should recognize that it’s become widely accepted that being overweight can have adverse and serious consequences on overall health.

The other thing to consider is that weight loss and weight control are a major part of many people’s lives. Being hyper-aware of what we eat, monitoring calories, trying to find time to exercise, and other weight-related issues take up a lot of mental and emotional energy.

So if sleep plays a role in weight loss, well, that’s a big deal. Imagine putting in the effort and doing everything right in terms of diet and exercise and still not getting any results.

What Does The Research Tell Us?

We’re seeing an increasing amount of studies showing that poor sleep and sleep disorders are directly linked to weight gain and weight loss.

Sleep and weight loss

For example, a Finnish study in the International Journal of Obesity looked at almost 6,000 middle-aged women. The study found that the participants who had sleep-related issues were more likely to also have issues with their weight than their peers who slept for the recommended eight hours a night.

Another study from the University of Colorado, found that men who were forced to sleep for five hours a night gained two pounds of weight in just one week. I found this to be a shocking concept because many of my patients, friends and family get about that much sleep every night.

Medical professionals who specialize in treating sleep apnea report that a high percentage of their patients are overweight. In the past, the conventional wisdom was that being overweight was what caused the sleep apnea in the first place, and there is a correlation in that regard. But we can’t ignore the possibility that the sleep problems caused the weight gain. A look at human biology tells us why this might be the case.

How Does Sleep Affect Weight Loss?

The simplest explanation is that a lack of sleep leads to tiredness and fatigue, and this usually translates into having no motivation to exercise or even to eat healthy and nutritious meals.

Any parent knows that feeling – being so sleep deprived and tired that a workout or even a walk can seem impossible. Of course, the idea of cooking a nutritious meal at that point seems equally unlikely. The end result is being slumped on the couch with the kids after work, watching the TV and waiting for the pizza to arrive.

If that pattern of behavior is repeated for long enough, it’s inevitable that some pounds will be put on, and your overall health is also likely to suffer. Of course the weight gain may end up making any sleep disordered breathing problems you may have worse, potentially leaving you with full-blown sleep apnea.

There’s Also A Chemical Component

If sleep deprivation persists for long enough, it can lead to imbalances within the body. These imbalances can in turn affect your metabolism and hormones. There are vital hormones directly related to weight management including insulin, which balances your blood sugar, and two important appetite regulators, leptin and ghrelin.


Sleep deprivation can lead to your body building up a resistance to insulin’s efforts to move glucose into your cells. This will mean that your ability to manage blood sugar is affected.

Compromised insulin levels can then lead your body to produce less of the hunger-regulating hormone, leptin.


Put in simple terms, leptin is the body’s “STOP” hormone!

It’s released when you need to stop eating because you’ve had enough. If there’s less leptin in your system, then you’re more likely to eat more than you should. That’s not a good thing but it gets worse – your body will also start producing leptin’s cousin, ghrelin, in higher than normal amounts.


Ghrelin is the “START” hormone. It’s the opposite of leptin because it’s released when it’s time to eat. Having an overabundance of ghrelin translates into a stronger desire to eat more often.

The aforementioned unbalanced blood sugar is much the same as being diabetic at a much lower intensity. Add in a constant desire to eat more food, more often, plus the likelihood that you’ll be too fatigued to exercise and you’ve got a recipe for weight gain.

Then there’s the additional fact that poor sleep leads to more stress, which means you’ll have more of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. That among other less than helpful things, is a signal to the body to store fat, which is exactly what you don’t need when it comes to weight loss.

So what we have here is a vicious cycle!

How Do We Deal With It?

The first and best step is to find out if you actually do have a sleep disorder, and if so, clarify exactly how bad it is. The way to do this is with a sleep study, and only a doctor who practices sleep medicine can set these up. With that information, you can make an informed decision about what to do next.

sleep and weight loss

Sleep hygiene is so important!

If you’re just having a bit of a tough time sleeping at the moment, then it would be a very good idea to do whatever you can to fix that. Practicing effective sleep hygiene is a great way to get started. I’ve written a few articles on the subject on this my Sleep Apnea Therapist website:

Caffeine and How It Affects Your Sleep

Sleep Hygiene Tips Part Two

Sleep Hygiene


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