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Can You Lose Weight While You Sleep? Answered by an Expert

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Last updated: October 22, 2022

About a decade ago, when I was relatively new in my career as a fitness trainer, I stumbled on an article claiming that losing weight is possible while sleeping.

It sounded ridiculous at the time. However, a meeting with a sleep expert about five years ago has changed my perspective.

This article is a product of five years of research and back and forths between a small team of experts at Total Shape and renowned sleep specialists and Ph.D. holders in sleep therapy.

Here’s what we found.

Quick Summary

  • You mostly lose water during sleep, but because of different metabolic rates, not everyone will lose the same amount of water weight.
  • Sleep-deprived people experience difficulty losing weight.
  • Sleep indirectly moderates your appetite.

How Do People Lose Weight During Sleep?

A woman sleeping above her pillow while hugging it

People lose weight when they sleep through breathing and sweating, although they tend to lose water weight more than fat.

Researchers assert that the water lost through breathing and sweating accounts for 83% of weight lost during sleep [1].

Now, while the fat lost through sleeping is not significant, sleep is still an essential part of weight loss.

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3 Ways Good Night’s Rest May Help You Lose Weight

A woman having a good night's rest

Quality sleep is as important as diet and exercise.

The standard sleep duration recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is 7 hours [2]. But most people don't adhere.

Here’s what's interesting; those who experience difficulty losing fat usually have something in common — they are sleep-deprived.

Studies Show That Short Sleep Leads to Weight Gain

Recurring studies continue to table evidence associating short sleep with gaining weight and higher body mass index.

One study found that adults who slept less than 7 hours had a 41% risk of obesity. In contrast, those who slept longer had no such trouble [3].

Another study on sleep restriction tied waist circumference and the accumulation of belly fat to short sleep duration [4].

"Getting sufficient sleep could be a game-changer in tackling the obesity epidemic,"

- Esra Tasali, Lead researcher, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine & Director of the Sleep Research Center at The University of Chicago

These problems did not only affect adults but adolescents and children as well. Research on preschool children found that BMI scores improved with every additional hour of sleep [5].

Besides a direct correlation to weight gain, lack of enough sleep was also found to negatively affect hunger levels, driving people to consume high caloric intake from high sugar and high-fat foods [6].

How does this happen?

Sleep-impoverished people are bound to release more ghrelin, a hunger hormone that sends hunger signals to the brain.

At the same time, their bodies hinder leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger [7].

Sleep disorders like sleep apnea also cause a never-ending cycle of lack of sleep due to weight gain and weight gain due to lack of sleep [8].

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Sleep Moderates Your Appetite and Prevent Snacking

Wearing pajamas while holding a slice of cake

Aside from the release of more ghrelin, other studies also found a connection between sleep deprivation and high-calorie intake.

The same study found that sleep-deprived people consume an extra 385 calories on average [9].

Sleep Enhances Physical Activity During the Day

Sleep and physical activity have a two-way relationship. A lack of sleep leads to inactiveness, and inactiveness leads to a lack of sleep [10].

Several studies back this idea and have found that folks are more likely to fall asleep faster when physically active. In addition, they also improve sleep health [11].

Research suggests that inadequate sleep negatively impacts your athletic performance, motor skills, muscular power, the ability to solve problems, and endurance [12].

Related article8 Tips To Lose Fat Without Working Out

5 Tips for Quality Sleep to Support Weight Loss

An energetic person after waking up and another person sleeping with blindfold

For the sake of more sleep quality, you need to develop healthy sleep habits.

1. Remain Consistent With Your Sleep Schedule

Remain consistent with your sleep schedule. That means sleeping at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning.

Research shows that trying to catch up with sleep after some late nights can wreak havoc on your metabolism and cause insulin insensitivity [13].

Aim for 7-8 hours of adequate sleep.

2. Create a Healthy Sleep Environment

Keep the bedroom dark with no lights when it's sleeping time. No lights include keeping cell phones, TVs, and computers away from the bedroom.

Exposure to artificial lights is proven to increase the risk of obesity in women [14].

3. Avoid Meals and Caffeine Drinks Before Bed

Food intake before bed is highly discouraged.

Studies have shown that late lunch eaters drop weight slower than their counterparts [15].

Additionally, caffeinated drinks like coffee keep you alert and awake. You should therefore avoid them before bed.

4. Sun Exposure in the Morning

A woman exposed to the sun when waking up

Sun exposure in the morning helps you sleep better at night.

How? The circadian rhythm effect. Here’s how it works;

The effect is based on the notion that the sun’s cycle affects sleep, alertness, and the circadian clock.

Your body has a circadian clock that perceives light as a signal to wake up and darkness as a signal to sleep. It means two things; Dim the lights to feel more sleepy and brighten them to feel more awake [16].

Related articleDoes Tanning Help with Weight Loss?

5. Stay Active

And lastly, staying active through physical activities during the day makes you feel more tired during the night and therefore sleep more.

On the other hand, sleeping less means moving around less and therefore burning fewer calories.

FAQs

How Much Weight Can You Lose While Sleeping?

You lose an average of 1-3 pounds while sleeping at night. Most of the weight loss is water. It’s lost through breathing, sweating, and urination.

How Many Hours Should You Be Sleeping to Lose Weight?

You should be sleeping 7-9 hours in order to lose weight. It is backed by studies that have proven an increased risk of obesity with people sleeping less.

Other studies have also discovered that more sleep than the recommended 7-9 hours can add more weight, just like short sleep [17].

How Can I Lose 3 Pounds Overnight?

You can lose up to 3 pounds overnight by sleeping for 7-9 hours.

To avoid sleep disruption and poor sleep, adopt sleep hygiene practices such as reducing screen time, limiting caffeine intake, exercising regularly, and maintaining a sleep schedule.

Can Sleep Deprivation Impact Fat Loss?

Sleep deprivation has a significant impact on your metabolism and weight. It's wise to follow what sleep medicine physicians recommend — not less than 7 hours of sleep.

If you want to further support your weight loss efforts, exercise can help you sleep better and burn more fat, and I would also recommend you consider adding nighttime fat burners in the mix for a little edge.

We’ve tried and tested some of the best night-time fat burners on the market, and some of them proved to be quite effective at accelerating fat burning during the night, as well as increasing energy expenditure during the day.


References:

  1. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/advan.00028.2005
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32527625/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25581918/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33237635/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15583226/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5554513/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30335476
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27804960/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5385214/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28276627/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32005349/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30827911/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31180469/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23357955/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3020104/
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25113417/
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