Sleep More to Eat Less?
Most people don’t want to make weight loss harder. Or weight gain easier. Yet if you don’t get enough sleep, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Keep reading to learn more.
Case in point: a 2019 meta-analysis of 41 studies calculated that when people significantly restricted their sleep (by sleeping just 4-5 hours per night), they consumed, on average, an extra 250 calories per day.
But here’s the good news: A University of Chicago study recently showed how “easy” it can be to turn that around. The scientists looked at what happened when 40 people who were getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep per night got individual sleep coaching for two weeks.
The results are eye-opening:
- On average, the participants slept for 1.2 hours more per night.
- Every hour of extra sleep was associated with 162 fewer daily calories consumed.
Put another way, the participants cut more than 1,000 calories per week from their diet by simply sleeping a little more. That’s meaningful progress – and it required zero intentional eating changes.
The participants were able to make these initial changes without lots of coaching:
- Each person received one hour of guidance at the beginning of the study, along with a brief check-in seven days later.
- Each received a recommended sleep-wake schedule, and advice on bedtime routines, their sleeping environment (bedroom noise, light, and temperature), screen time, and physiological factors such as exercise and caffeine.
This one-hour session is why it was previously referred to it as “easy.” But the quotes are there for a reason: successfully making changes, even simple ones, is rarely easy. It takes effort.
Plus, it’s important to note this wasn’t a long-term study. For the changes to stick, ongoing help from a coach would likely be key, especially when life inevitably throws a wrench into things.
Because even though people often think change goes like this…
It usually goes like this:
Why does sleeping more help you eat less?
For starters, lack of sleep negatively impacts hunger, appetite, and satiety hormones which can lead to an increase in food cravings.
There is also more opportunity to act on those cravings – if you’re getting, say, 5 hours of sleep at night versus 8 hours, that’s 3 more hours of potential “eating time.”
Just as important is that a bad night’s rest can negatively impact your outlook and mood, your emotions, your relationships, your decision-making ability, and your capacity to manage stress.
And those effects are likely amplified if you consistently miss out on sleep.
It doesn’t take a sleep scientist to see how all these connect back to eating (and exercise) behaviors. Because if you aren’t prioritizing sleep, you’re swimming against the current.
Of course, some people struggle with chronic insomnia or sleep apnea. If you’re one of them, you may need a qualified medical professional to help treat those problems.
But for those who simply don’t get enough rest, it’s a behavior change problem. You can achieve significant improvements in sleep by learning and practicing new skills, measuring their effectiveness, and adjusting course based on the result.
In other words, what a good coach can help you do.
Here’s a resource that can help: Click below to download a free PDF checklist of strategies for improving sleep and recovery. The advice is similar to what the researchers used in the University of Chicago study. Consider it a starting point for identifying actions you might take to improve sleep.
Let’s face it: Improving your food and fitness can feel nearly impossible without strategies for mastering sleep, stress management & recovery. Contact me and let’s talk about how I can help you create the strongest foundation on which to build food and fitness success.
Note: The preceding article is based on content first published by Precision Nutrition.