Can Better Sleep Habits Help You Lose Weight?

A woman sleeping.

It sounds like a bad late-night infomercial: "Wake up with less fat!" But, according to new Harvard research, it might not be that far off.

For the study, researchers looked at the sleep habits of 133,353 healthy women.

Over the course of 10 years, women who slept well were 45 percent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes (the kind that's correlated with obesity) compared to those who had trouble falling or staying asleep, snored, slept less than six hours per night, or had sleep apnea.

Late Nights Give You the Munchies

When your circadian rhythms are disturbed, your body is more likely to secrete excess ghrelin, the hormone that increases appetite. This could cause weight gain and increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, says lead study author Yanping Li, M.D., Ph.D., a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

Plus, not catching enough beauty sleep decreases your levels of leptin, the feel-full hormone.

Previous research from the University of California, Berkeley found that sleep deprivation makes activity in the brain's reward center light up like Vegas when we down indulgent treats, like bacon-wrapped anything. One Mayo Clinic study even found that when people cut 80 minutes from their regular sleep schedule, they wound up noshing on an average of 549 extra calories the next day. Dang.

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Crappy Sleep Stresses You Out

But it's not just fatigue-driven trips down the candy aisle that trigger weight gain.

In one University of Chicago-led study, researchers found that people who got 8.5 hours of sleep a night lost about twice as much fat as those who slept 5.5 hours per night—despite the fact that they all ate the same number of calories per day.

So why does an extra three hours of sleep seem to be fat-burning magic? Li notes that recent studies suggest that sleep problems ramp up levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to inflammation and insulin problems. Both of those issues can result in weight gain.

In fact, one study published in the journal Diabetologia found that just four days of sleep deprivation make the body less sensitive to insulin, increasing the risk for extra fat storage.

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Lively, fun and provocative, the Women's Health brand addresses 360 degrees of life for the new generation of contemporary, confident, ambitious women. By connecting with our readers in the frank, irreverent voice of a trusted girlfriend, the clever, service-driven content transcends the title, making the brand a true one-stop lifestyle resource for millions of women who are making their mark.

Lively, fun and provocative, the Women's Health brand addresses 360 degrees of life for the new generation of contemporary, confident, ambitious women. By connecting with our readers in the frank, irreverent voice of a trusted girlfriend, the clever, service-driven content transcends the title, making the brand a true one-stop lifestyle resource for millions of women who are making their mark.

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