While research is not extensive when it comes to the link between sleep and weight management, the majority point in a similar direction: Getting regular, good quality sleep, for at least 8 hours or more, can help you to lose weight.
Whenever we think of losing weight, typically our minds go to eating healthy, and increasing exercise. Simple right? Maybe, but there are many who still struggle to maintain this, or feel like they are putting in the effort, but not getting noticeable results. Sleep might be the issue.
In a review of the research by Capuccio et al. (2008), evidence from 45 studies from nearly 20 countries around the world were evaluated, that looked at the relationship between weight and sleep. Astonishingly, it was consistently found that those with a shorter sleep duration had a significantly increased risk of obesity, in children and adults!
So how is this so? Is a lack of sleep causing people to become obese, or are obese people less likely to get a full nights rest? Rates of sleep-dysfunctioning issues are increased in those who are obese (like that of sleep apnoea, where breathing stops during sleep), but for those who do not experience said issues, a lack of sleep itself may be holding them back from losing weight.
From what I can see, the issue is partly biology and partly psychology, confirmed by a more recent review from Leger, Bayon, & Sanctis (2015). Regular and good quality sleep is associated with hormone regulation, and certain hormones aid in weight management. Good sleep leads to higher levels of leptin, or the ‘feel-full hormone’, and lower level of ghrelin, which stimulates hunger.
As for the psychology bit, it’s not certain how sleep directly impacts on weight management, other than the already known benefits to a good nights sleep. If you are well rested, you are more likely to concentrate and stick to dieting plans, making them more effective. So if you’re doing the best you can in your diet and exercise regime, maybe getting more sleep might do you the world of good!
For the Psychologists…
Capuccio, F. P., Taggart, F. M., Kandala, N., Currie, A., Peile, E., Stranges, S., & Miller, M. A. (2008). Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults. Sleep, 31(5), 619-626.
Leger, D., Bayon, V., Sanctis, A. (2015). The role of sleep in the regulation of body weight. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, 418, 101-107.