You’re organized and seemingly on the right track to losing weight: you’re choosing a rainbow of vegetables at the grocery store, cutting back on late-night ice cream, counting calories to be in a calorie deficit, and even carving out time to exercise regularly.
So why won’t the scale budge?
Well, there’s one more thing to consider: sleep quality. Does sleeping make you lose weight? Well, when it comes to losing weight, quality deep sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise.
That’s right, you need to honestly assess the quality of your sleep -- and possibly break some bad habits.
Wait, sleeping helps with weight loss? Yes! Consider the data. Studies have shown that just one night of sleep deprivation can decrease insulin sensitivity by as much as 33% and can be as detrimental as six months on a high-fat diet. This highlights the importance of a good night’s sleep to maintain blood sugar levels, shed excess fat, and reduce the risk of metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes.
Sleep Science & Losing Weight
The good news is that it’s very simple to improve your sleep game to lose weight while you sleep! Before we dive into our healthy sleep swap ideas below, let’s review the stages of sleep.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s divide the night into three sleep buckets:
Goodnight, moon! Bedtime is when the cow jumped over the moon, right? It’s also when the “sleep switch” occurs, muscles relax, heart rate decreases, and the hormone melatonin lulls you to sleep.
The first half of the night is your “deep sleep” window. Your heart rate and blood pressure continue to drop, and it’s also when your body temperature drops to its lowest point.
During the last half of the night, deep sleep is ending and you’re warming up. Our bodies burn the most fat during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The brain is highly active and burns the most glucose, the body's source of fuel. Heart rate and blood pressure start rising again, which burns more calories.
How to Create Good Sleep Habits
Just as you’ve learned to make easy food swaps (i.e., a handful of heart-healthy almonds instead of a fistful of greasy potato chips), opt for simple “sleep swaps” to achieve your weight-loss goals.
Practice the following habits to get the best sleep of your life:
Ditch the Alcohol
As part of your weight-loss goals, take incremental steps to drink less. Start by swapping out your evening glass (or three!) of wine with a hot cup of delicious tea, replacing boozy brunch mimosas with iced tea, or asking the bartender for a trendy “zero-proof” alcohol-free cocktail. Alcohol leads to poorer sleep quality because it reduces REM sleep (i.e., the best “fat-burning” phase of sleep).
In addition, the more you drink, the less weight you’ll lose, because the body registers alcohol as a poison; your liver will prioritize getting rid of poisons before it will break down fat. Remember, you don’t have to hit rock bottom to drink less: if you’ve ever simply thought “drinking doesn’t work for me anymore” or “I sleep better without it,” then that’s a powerful enough reason to cut back.
Read More: Does Alcohol Affect My Sleep?
Swap out those 20 demoralizing minutes of feeling bad about not wanting to drive to the gym with a quick at-home yoga session. Maybe you’ll make it to your gym tomorrow for HIIT cardio, but if all you do today is unroll your yoga mat and indulge in some “happy baby” or “dolphin” poses, then that’s great, too! Practicing yoga and deep stretches will build lean muscle, boost metabolism, reduce tension, and ultimately improve sleep quality.
Turn off Technology
Instead of passively watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram for hours, set a timer for 20 minutes of meditation before bedtime. If you find it difficult to “turn off” your mind to meditate, that’s okay and quite common! Start by finding a comfortable spot to quietly review the day’s high points. See how many little things you can add to your big gratitude list.
Read More: How Blue Light Affects Our Sleep
Aim for Quality, Not Quantity
Instead of focusing on a specific number of hours to sleep, set the stage to move naturally into a deep sleep. Even the CDC doesn’t list 8 hours as necessary for adults. Deeper sleep occurs as your core temperature drops, and as it rises, you typically wake up. Your body’s “internal clock” is super-smart when given the ideal conditions; this is scientifically called the circadian rhythm, which helps to regulate your body’s temperature, heart rate, hormone production, organ function, and sleep cycle.
Purchase a Cooling Bed System
Going from hot to cold -- by dropping the temperature of your bed -- is one of the most important swaps you can make. If you’re waking up during the night, it’s probably because you’re too hot. Investing in a cooling mattress pad will help to create your ideal sleep temperature. As we mentioned above, body temperature plays a key role in your circadian rhythm and personal sleep pattern (there’s an evolutionary reason it’s easier to fall asleep in a cold, dark room).
Quality Sleep During Weight Loss
Along with the above-mentioned, below are some additional researched-based tips on how sleeping better can help you lose weight.
Studies suggest that individuals who go to bed earlier tend to eat fewer calories per day than "night owls" ad are more likely to maintain their weight or lose weight over time. Additionally, poor sleep plays a role. Those who go to bed later in the evening eat more calories late at night and are at risk for weight gain.
It's recommended to stay on a sleep schedule. This includes on the weekends! Having big swings in your sleep schedule can reduce insulin and cause changes in your metabolism in return, making it a lot easier for your blood sugar to be elevated.
Eating Late at Night
Not only do individuals who eat late consume more food, but the food choices also tend to be more on the unhealthy side and tend to be calorie-dense foods such as soda, ice cream, and chips. Research showed that those who ate closer to bedtime consumed more calories overall than those who ate their meal earlier.
Deep Sleep and Weight Loss
Getting more deep sleep is an important part of how to be healthier and your overall weight loss success.
We hope you implement our tips to prime yourself for sleep and regulate your temperature to coordinate with your sleep cycle. Plus, once you clean up your sleep hygiene consistently, don’t be surprised if the scale (finally) moves in the right direction.
Sleep and weight loss go hand in hand! We believe in you and know you can do it! Drop us a note on our social channels for a chance to be featured in our sleep and weight loss success stories.