Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep for Health and Weight Loss

Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep for Health and Weight Loss

pic baby sleep

Sleep is critical for health and weight loss at any age.

Deep sleep triggers the body to release growth hormones that promotes normal growth in children and teens and boosts muscle mass and helps in the healing and repair of cells and tissues in people of all ages. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility by affecting hormone levels.

Getting enough sleep is vital for weight loss attempts because it helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin), and thereby sleep has a direct effect on the weight of an individual.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your levels of ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone, go up, and your levels of leptin, the satiety inducing hormone, go down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you are well-rested. A study found that young men who were deprived of sleep had higher levels of ghrelin and lower levels of leptin, with a corresponding increase in hunger and appetite, especially for foods rich in fat and carbohydrates. (1,2)

People who are awake more hours also have more time to spend eating, and they do this frequently, causing weight gain. (3) Also, people who were deprived of sleep and surrounded by tasty snacks tended to snack more than when they had an adequate sleep. (4)

One study of Japanese workers found that those who slept fewer than six hours a night were more likely to eat out, have irregular meal patterns, and snack more than people who slept more than six hours. (5)

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat than those who were sleep deprived. In fact, those who were sleep deprived lost more muscle mass than fat tissue. Dieters in the study also felt hungrier when they got less sleep.

Sleep and metabolism are controlled in the same parts of the brain. 

People who do not get enough sleep are more tired during the day, and consequently, do less physical activity. (6)

Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level which may increase the risk for diabetes. (7,8)

A Stanford University study found that college basketball players who tried to sleep at least ten hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina. (9) The results of this study reflect previous findings seen in throwing darts, swimming, and weightlifting performance. (10,11,12)

The immune system relies on sleep to remain healthy. Ongoing sleep deficiency changes immune system function reducing immunity to common infections.

Too much or too little sleep is also associated with a shorter lifespan.  In a systematic search of sixteen prospective studies from 1966-2009 which included 1,382,999 male and female participants with a follow-up range of four to twenty-five years, and 112,566 deaths, found that both too short and too long duration of sleep are significant predictors of death in prospective population studies. (13)

Sleep deficiency may also have an instant effect on our health, such as being more susceptible to car crashes if driving. It was proven that sleep deprivation has a more powerful effect on the clarity of thought and the rate of reaction than alcohol consumption.

It is estimated that sleepiness accounts for up to 20% of crashes on monotonous roads, especially highways. (14) In 2011, the National Department of Transportation in the US estimated that drowsy driving was responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 non-fatal injuries every year. (15)

If you are serious about improving your health and are ready to lose weight, the first step is simple. Get enough sleep at night.

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  1. Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Med; 2004; 1:e62.
  2. Spiegel K, Tasali E, Penev P, Van Cauter E. Brief communication: Sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, elevated ghrelin levels, and increased hunger and appetite. Ann Intern Med; 2004; 141:846-50.
  3. Taheri S. The link between short sleep duration and obesity: we should recommend more sleep to prevent obesity. Arch Dis Child; 2006; 91:881-4.
  4. Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Kasza K, Schoeller DA, Penev PD. Sleep curtailment is accompanied by increased intake of calories from snacks. Am J Clin Nutr; 2009; 89:126-33.
  5. Imaki M, Hatanaka Y, Ogawa Y, Yoshida Y, Tanada S. An epidemiological study on relationship between the hours of sleep and life style factors in Japanese factory workers. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci; 2002; 21:115-20
  6. Patel SR, Malhotra A, White DP, Gottlieb DJ, Hu FB. Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. Am J Epidemiol; 2006; 164:947-54.
  7. Zizi F, Jean-Louis G, Brown CD, Ogedegbe G, Boutin-Foster C, McFarlane SI. Sleep Duration and the Risk of Diabetes Mellitus: Epidemiologic Evidence and Pathophysiologic Insights. Current diabetes reports; 2010;10(1):43-47. doi:10.1007/s11892-009-0082-x.
  8. Broussard JL, Ehrmann DA, Van Cauter E, Tasali E, Brady MJ. Impaired insulin signaling in human adipocytes after experimental sleep restriction: a randomized, crossover study. Ann Intern Med; 2012 Oct 16;157(8):549-57.doi:10.7326/0003-4819-157-8-201210160-00005.
  9. Mah CD, Mah KE, Kezirian EJ, Dement WC. The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players. Sleep; 2011;34(7):943-950. doi:10.5665/SLEEP.1132.
  10. Reilly T, Piercy M. The effect of partial sleep deprivation on weight-lifting performance. Ergonomics; 1994;37:107–15.
  11. Edwards BJ, Waterhouse J. Effects of one night of partial sleep deprivation upon diurnal rhythms of accuracy and consistency in throwing darts. Chronobiol Int;2009;26:756–68.
  12. Kline CE, Durstine JL, Davis JM, et al. Circadian variation in swim performance. J Appl Physiol;. 2007;102:641–9.
  13. Cappuccio FP; D’Elia L; Strazzullo P; Miller MA. Sleep duration and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. SLEEP 2010; 33,5, 585-592.
  14. Kingman P. Strohl, Daniel B. Brown, Nancy Collop, Charles George, Ronald Grunstein, Fang Han, Lawrence Kline, Atul Malhotra, Alan Pack, Barbara Phillips, Daniel Rodenstein, Richard Schwab, Terri Weaver, and Kevin Wilson; on behalf of the ATS Ad Hoc Committee on Sleep Apnea, Sleepiness, and Driving Risk in Noncommercial Drivers. An Official American Thoracic Society Clinical Practice Guideline: Sleep Apnea, Sleepiness, and Driving Risk in Noncommercial Drivers. An Update of a 1994 Statement. American Thoracic Society Documents, (2012).
  15. US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Drowsy driving and automobile crashes [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web Site]. Accessed November 24, 2014.


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