Does Sleep Deprivation Really Impact Weight Loss?

Jessica Smith
by Jessica Smith
Share it:
Does Sleep Deprivation Really Impact Weight Loss?

The saying goes that “if you snooze, you lose,” but when it comes to weight loss, this adage may actually work in your favor. Most people are shocked when I tell them the most important factor for losing weight (and keeping it off) isn’t diet or exercise, it’s sleep!

Here’s why: If you aren’t getting enough shut-eye every night, research has shown that not only are you making it harder to stick with a healthy diet, but you’re also going to lack the energy and stamina you need to stay active and give your all to your workout program. And, while additional research is needed, more and more evidence is showing us the importance of sleep for slimming down. I’m convinced that a lack of sleep is the reason that most adults find the scale is stuck, despite their best efforts to lose weight.

Not convinced? Check out what happens when you don’t get enough sleep. (For most adults, “enough” is somewhere between 7–8 hours a night.)

1. Your metabolism slows down.

You may have read that a lack of sleep can slow your metabolism, but did you know that it can happen after just one night of sleep deprivation? One Swedish study found when a group of healthy, young male subjects stayed awake all night, their metabolic rate slowed, reducing their energy expenditure for tasks such as breathing and digestion by as much as 20% the next day. Additional research suggests that not sleeping enough on a regular basis can cause profound, negative effects on metabolism.

2. Your appetite for high-calorie, high-fat foods increases.

Feeling tired may make it harder to say no to those doughnuts at the office. According to one 2012 study, when subjects slept just an hour and 20 minutes less each night, they consumed an average of 549 additional calories the next day — and they weren’t snacking on salad!
Sleep has a direct influence on your body’s levels of the appetite stimulating and controlling hormones ghrelin and leptin, making it harder for your body to recognize when you’ve eaten enough. Although it’s not clear exactly why, lack of sleep may also cause cravings for higher-fat, higher-calorie foods.

3. Your energy and energy output (aka calorie burn) decreases.

You might think that since you’ll be awake longer, you’ll have more opportunities to burn off extra calories, right? Not exactly. Some research has shown that sleep-deprived people are less likely to be physically active than those who are well-rested. Think about it: When you’re tired, you aren’t exactly bursting with energy, right? You’ll probably find yourself less active overall during the day, and getting through a tough workout? Forget about it. Sleep can actually enhance your performance at the gym, so don’t discount it if one of your goals is to improve your fitness level and change your body composition.

4. You’re more likely to get the late-night munchies.

Staying awake for more hours equals more time and opportunities to eat additional calories. While it’s not a guarantee that you’ll eat more if you stay awake longer, extra hours of access to the fridge may increase your chances of snacking more. There’s a reason they call them midnight munchies. Plus, most of us tend to eat more mindlessly at night in front of the TV, so watching those late, late shows may also be causing you to overdraw from your calorie bank.

5. You increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Not getting the right amount of sleep can also weaken your immune system and put you at a greater risk for disease. One Massachusetts Male Aging Study found that subjects who slept less than six hours a night were twice as likely to develop diabetes over the 15-year study period. Sleep deprivation may also put you at a higher risk for heart disease. One study found that subjects who got less than five hours of sleep a night showed increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease,such as increased heart rate and higher levels of C-reactive protein, which rises in response to inflammation. And yet another long-term Nurses’ Health Study found that women who slept less than five hours a night were 15% more likely to become obese during the research period of 16 years.

The takeaway here? Don’t sabotage all of your hard work by skimping on sleep. Make it a priority to get enough rest to stay healthy and shed pounds. While it may feel impossible at first, it’s much more manageable if you start small. Rather than suddenly hitting the hay a few hours earlier from one night to the next, try heading to bed 15 minutes earlier every night for a week until you’ve gradually shifted your bedtime back to meet your personal sleep needs. In an ideal world, you would wake up before the alarm — or at least rise feeling refreshed.

You may find that sleep is the missing element in your healthy lifestyle — and that it can bring back your energy and vibrancy and help you reach your weight loss and fitness goals faster.

Tell us: What do you think? Have you noticed a difference in your energy, appetite, etc. when you don’t get enough sleep? Are you getting enough sleep each night? Let’s keep this discussion going; share with us your best tips and observations in the comments below!


> 15 Inspirational Tips from MyFitnessPal Users Who’ve Successfully Lost Weight
> Does Sleep Deprivation Really Impact Weight Loss?
> The Sleep-Weight Connection

About the Author

Jessica Smith
Jessica Smith

As someone who struggled to lose weight for years, Jessica found that the key to her own 40-pound weight loss was making small, healthy lifestyle changes that led to big, lasting results. Now, as a certified wellcoach, fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has spent the last 15 years helping students and clients reach their goals in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. She now reaches millions online through her YouTube Channel and home exercise DVD series. Please visit to learn more about her fun, results-driven programs for all levels of exercisers.


9 responses to “Does Sleep Deprivation Really Impact Weight Loss?”

  1. Avatar Lynz Danielson says:

    Yes. I agree. When I miss sleep, I am more hungry for carbs and other such foods; I retain water weight and if I miss too many nights of good rest, my feet swell. This is not a myth, at least in my case.

    • Avatar Susan1111 says:

      what Joel responded I didn’t even know that a student able to earn $8966 in four weeks on the computer . original site CLCK.RU/9uupv

  2. Avatar Emma Richter says:

    Sleep is very important, though you can still choose to eat healthy. It really is a combined effort of diet, exercise, hydration, and sleep. Your body functions and burns to the max when you drink 64 + ounces of water a day, get 8-9 hours of sleep, do both resistance and cardio training, and eat organic minimally processed foods.

  3. Avatar John Sullivan says:

    This is certainly NOT true for everyone. I have had problems sleeping for years and I’ve been monitoring my sleeping patterns via a Misfit Flash since I decided to lose weight after Christmas this year. I get significantly less than 2 hours of restful sleep each night and even the light sleep I do manage to get (which is very interrupted by periods of wakefulness) doesn’t amount to more than 3 hours most nights.
    That didn’t stop me exercising – both physically on a treadmill and exercising my will power in adhering to a calorie controlled diet. (Helped greatly by this website I have to say)
    I met my target of a 2 stone reduction (12.7Kg or 28lbs) after 75 days, and after setting a new target of a further half stone reduction, I’m well on the way to reaching that too.
    I fear that sweeping statements like the title of this article may well put people off even trying to lose weight and restyle their lifestyle. If I’d read that before I started, I may well not have even bothered trying to lose weight – which I’ve found infinitely easier (though not easy) than getting a decent nights sleep.
    I’d been very inactive for years and I would go so far as to say I disliked physical exertion intensely. I’ve changed all that as a result of simple determination and common sense. I eat less and I exercise more, which includes hiking in the great outdoors.
    And guess what?
    That’s in spite of my sleeping pattern not changing one iota.
    I hope this helps those who may otherwise be put off by headlines/articles with sweeping generalisations.
    For clarification, I’m a 64 year old male and earlier this year I weighed in at my heaviest ever – 14stone 5lbs (91.17Kg or 201lbs) and this morning I weighed 12stone 4lbs (78.02Kg or 172lbs)
    All this does involve will power though – whether you sleep well or not. It’s
    your choice – snack and jeopardise your progress or put away those
    thoughts and succeed. It helps me to look at the calories in a ‘snack’.
    If I see that it contains 100 calories, I calculate how long it’s going to take
    me to use that up on the treadmill and how much sweat I’m going to shed
    just to get back to where I was before the snack. It’s surprising how
    quickly the ‘need’ to fill your face evaporates! If I succumb to that need, (and I do occasionally) then I face the music later and walk off those extra calories.

    • Avatar Kbrowncreations says:

      Congratulations on your weight loss. I would like to see research comparing how sleep deprivation affects weight loss in women and in men. In my experience, women have more emotional ties to food and eating. In a sleep deprived condition, it is even harder to resist temptation to eat something that will make you, at least initially, feel so good. Many men see food differently; as fuel necessary to live. They eat to live instead of living to eat. IMHO.

      • Avatar John Sullivan says:

        Many thanks for your congratulations – much appreciated.
        I couldn’t really comment with any real authority on the difference in attitude/experience between the sexes. My experience in that realm is limited to my late mother and my wife, both of whom display(ed) an iron will and focus that I, and I guess most other men, would give their right arms for. My mother controlled her weight by denial/rationing of many of the things she loved to eat, particularly sweet things. My wife on the other hand doesn’t have any excess weight, though for other reasons she limits her intake with a hardened resolve that amazes me.

        I, on the other hand love my food – and I’m probably not too far from your description of ‘living to eat’ – and in particular all the ‘wrong’ things. My resolve to lose weight which occurred in the New Year was arrived at after much mental deliberation (months if not years) and warnings from my wife that I was heading for disaster. My attitude – which I presume would be shared by many men, though I can’t be sure – was very negative for a long time. The warnings from my point of view were counter-productive – I don’t like being pressured and I suppose they gave me an excuse not to begin. If others are like me, then men can certainly be stubborn!

        In the end, no matter whether you’re male or female, I think you have to arrive at the point where determination overrides everything else. At that point it’s like flicking a switch mentally and success, I believe, is then all but guaranteed.

        I’m no perfect example – I can describe how things have gone for me and how they are now.
        When I began, my goal was to reach 12st 7lbs which I did with relative (mental) ease. I didn’t ‘cheat’ and I was very careful to accurately measure my calorie intake and never exceed the suggestion from Myfitnesspal. The temptation was everpresent – I do the cooking and most of the food shopping in our house, and I never compromised my wife and son’s intake because of my ‘quest’.

        Flushed with success, I lowered my goal to 12stone, and I haven’t reached it yet, though I’m hovering between 12st 3lbs and 12st 1lb and have been for the past 2 or 3 weeks.
        I believe that’s because the new goal is rather less important than my initial one and I’m subconsciously, at least, more inclined to give in to small departures from the calorie limits. I have a third and final goal in mind for when I’ve arrived at 12st, – that is to eventually reach 11st 7lbs – I may do that, I may not!

        If women tend to be more emotionally tied to food than I am, (which I do find difficult to imagine – I normally have virtually zero willpower coupled with a sweet tooth that most people find unbelievable!), then the job is going to be harder for them than it is for men. But the solution, I think, has to be the same; don’t give in. If you do, you’ll fail. If you don’t, then you have a chance of success. To be positive though, I’d say that no matter how many failures someone has, they MUST try again -and again ad infinitum – because one day, that mental switch WILL be flicked and success will be achieved regardless of gender.
        Last evening, we attended a fundraising dinner and we sat with a couple of female former colleagues of mine. We naturally discussed my new size etc., and one of the ladies suggested that she does exactly what I have done, yet her weight isn’t coming down. She went to lengths to explain how she doesn’t drink alcohol as part of her drive to reduce her weight BUT when the waiter came to take orders for drinks, she ordered a BOTTLE of wine for her and her friend. My wife and I had a single glass of wine and a glass of water. I’m not relating that story to suggest that I’m a ‘goody two shoes’ – but just to illustrate that it’s those little decisions which affect the outcome. 2 months ago I wouldn’t have even ordered wine – I’d have had water.
        Sleepwise, things are no better – according to my Misflt Flash (and my recollection too) I slept for 3 hours 39 minutes last night.
        If you’re right in thinking that men and women’s experiences of sleep deprivation – and it’s consequences – are different, then I’d argue that it’s not a good thing to highlight it. People don’t need to be able to hang their failures on things. It may make it harder, but in my opinion, it’s not helpful to underline it as it almost condones a route to failure. The focus needs to be wholly on success, not on being able to blame failure on something, whether it’s lack of sleep, anxiety, depression, bereavement, hormones or anything else.

  4. Avatar Elizabeth Amaro says:

    Yes i have that problem becuase i work graveyard shift and i notice i gained alot and i dont have anymore time to go to gym. so for me i cant sleep the 8 hrs.

  5. Avatar Roxy Morley says:

    This is very interesting article, I’m in the midst of trying to loose weight and get fit, I shed pounds and lost several clothing sizes however I’m at the proverbial plateau that seems to be never ending (at least 6 weeks) and I’m tired all the time (Can fall asleep anywhere any time). I went to my family doctor complaining of tiredness and a perpetual “hang over head ache”. He sent me to a sleep clinic. I was a bit surprised because I was going to bed at 8:30pm and starting my day at 5:30 am and I believed I was sleeping for 8 or 9 hours a night. Well it turns out I’ve a severe sleep apnea problem and was not breathing properly. Even though I thought I was sleeping I was not ‘resting’ and getting the benefits of a good nights sleep.
    I’m just into the first week of using a CPAP machine at night and I have to say I’m starting to feel better, still going to my gym three days a week and hoping things will get sorted out. In the mean time it is obvious to me that loosing weight is not as simple as burning more calories than I consume, and a good sleep is a priority.

  6. Avatar Nikki Taylor says:

    I agree with this article, due to pain, I only manage a couple of hours sleep every night, and despite following a calorie controlled diet and going to the gym 4 times a week, the scales are not moving, it’s very demoralising

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Never Miss a Post!

Turn on MyFitnessPal desktop notifications and stay up to date on the latest health and fitness advice.


Click the 'Allow' Button Above


You're all set.