There isn't one universal prescription for weight loss, but most experts recommend doing cardio and strength training; eating nutrient-dense foods like leafy greens, legumes, and lean protein; controlling your stress levels; and getting enough sleep.
Sleep is often overlooked in the weight-loss equation, but it's integral to keep the weight off for good. To better understand the role sleep plays when it comes to weight loss and how much you should strive to get each night, POPSUGAR spoke to Rizwana Sultana, MD, assistant professor of pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Why Sleep Is Important
In a small 2016 poll, The Royal Society for Public Health found that the average sleep time of the 2,010 U.K. adults they surveyed was 6.8 hours. Being well-rested is important because it helps your brain function and improves your emotional well-being and physical health, the CDC found.
As you sleep, your brain forms new pathways that help you learn and remember information. Sleep also plays a role in your ability to pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. Have an idea you're ready to execute? Start with sleep, then get it done! Sleep also repairs your heart and blood vessels, and a lack of sleep can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, and high blood pressure.
How Sleep Affects Your Body Composition
Aside from getting your creative juices flowing and improving your memory, sleep also affects your body composition. The CDC reported that sleep helps balance your hormonal profile, specifically the hormones that control hunger (ghrelin) and fullness (leptin). If you're sleep deprived, your ghrelin levels increase and your leptin levels decrease, which results in you feeling hungrier. According to Dr. Sultana, this will cause you to eat more than you need.
"During sleep, many hormones including growth hormone are produced, which results in muscle growth," Dr. Sultana told POPSUGAR. The secretion of growth hormone isn't just important for people looking to put on lean muscle mass. "It promotes growth in childhood, and it helps [you] maintain healthy body tissue and muscle mass during adulthood," she explained.
How Much Sleep You Need a Night to Lose Weight
Remember when we said sleep was integral to losing weight? According to Dr. Sultana, you should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night if you're trying to lose weight. This will help you avoid fatigue and daytime sleepiness, which "results in the inability to exercise and a lack of motivation," Dr. Sultana explained. You should also try to get those seven to nine hours in at night, as sleeping throughout the day "can have a disruption in normal circadian rhythm, which affects body hormone release," Dr. Sultana said.
To improve the quality of your sleep, create a bedtime routine and stick to it, adjust your room temperature to about 68 or 69 degrees Fahrenheit, avoid caffeine after 10 a.m., avoid fatty foods and alcohol, and eliminate screen time in bed. For more tips on how to improve your sleep, check out this list of foods that may be causing sleep problems and the list of foods that will help you sleep better at night.