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Benefits of sleep for weight loss

Medically reviewed by

Prof Rishi Singhal MBBS, MRCS, FRCS, MD

It may seem a bit odd to say that sleeping is beneficial for weight loss when at most other times we’re extolling the virtues of exercise and staying active. Well of course increasing your exercise will aid your weight loss results but you may not be so aware of the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep.

In today’s society, sleep is often under-rated and pushed to the back of the daily priority queue. Our bodies can function on less than the recommended 8 hours sleep a night so many of us simply battle through the tiredness and lethargy the next day and get on with our daily lives.

Here’s why sleep is beneficial for weight loss.

  • Energy levels
    When you are well rested, you feel more alive and have more energy to carry out physical activity. Let’s face it, if you’re sleep deprived, a comfy night in on the sofa is going to be a more appealing prospect than going to the gym or pounding the streets on a run.
  • Food choices
    Tired, hungry people don’t make good food choices. If you’re body is low in energy, your brain will search out high calorie, high fat options to get the boost it needs. This is a physiological response that is really hard to resist. In the 24hr fast food environment we live in today, it is all too easy to find unhealthy food on every street corner. Of course, if you are well rested, making quality meals at home with healthy ingredients is simpler.
  • Caffeine
    Coffee is a common go-to as a pick-me-up when you’re feeling tired. A caffeine boost can certainly be effective but there are a few consequences that you may not have considered. Coffee tends to be accompanied by unhealthy ingredients such as cream, milk, sugar and syrups. Popular options from high street coffee shops can have an alarming number of calories and can be easily forgotten or discounted when working out a daily food intake. For instance a Grande Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks made with semi-skilled milk has 215 calories, 6g of fat, 33g of carbohydrates and 22.9g of sugar. A Starbucks Grande Strawberries and cream Frappuccino with semi skilled milk has 355 calories, 14.9g of fat, 49.8g of carbohydrates and 47.7g of sugar!
  • Metabolism
    Not getting enough sleep even slows your metabolism. A University of Chicago sleep study showed that in just four days of inadequate sleep, the body’s ability to process insulin reduced by more than 30%. Insulin is a hormone in the body that turns sugar and starch into energy but if your body isn’t processing insulin properly, it can’t process the fats in the bloodstream and stores them as fat instead, causing weight gain.

Conversely, getting enough sleep is beneficial to weight loss as when you’re asleep, your body is busy burning calories. The amount of calories you burn while asleep will depend on your weight but as an example, someone weighing 72.5kg will burn about 69kcal/hr which is a whopping 552kcal over an eight-hour sleep.

So, you have the best possible excuse for an early night and a good snooze. You’re welcome!