Can Sleep Help Me Lose - or Gain - Weight?

January 3, 2024 · John Gallagher

How Does Sleep Affect My Weight?

If you’re trying to gain weight, lose weight, or simply better manage your weight on a daily basis, you’ve likely begun your journey with two factors:

  • Your diet.
  • Your exercise levels.

Diet and exercise.

Both of these factors are critically important in governing your weight. Your diet should introduce nutrient-rich ingredients into your body — ingredients your body transforms into energy. Exercise reinforces that energy creation process, helping replace body fat with lean muscle and accelerating your metabolism.

There’s another important contributor to weight management, one that doesn’t get nearly as much press:

Your sleep.

Getting high-quality sleep is one of the most important things you can do to effectively manage your weight. Rest plays a critical role in regulating your sleep frequency, quality, and duration. If you’re looking to lose weight, sleep can help regulate the hormones to help you do it. If you want to gain weight, sleep helps appropriately regulate your appetite for full meals.

Understanding the link between sleep and weight

Sleep is just as important for weight management as it is for weight loss. A growing body of evidence suggests that sleep helps regulate your body's ability to burn fat. Without enough sleep, you’ll face an elevated risk for weight gain and obesity. That risk can begin as soon as childhood, when poor sleep practices become poor sleep habits that continue into adulthood.

Your hormones, metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and mental health are all important contributors to both your sleep and overall weight.

The hormonal connection

Sleep is one of the most important contributors to your hormones — which ultimately help regulate your diet and weight. For example, both leptin and ghrelin are important hormones that help your body maintain a healthy balance of fat and muscle.

Leptin helps your body sustain a normal, healthy weight. If you have trouble maintaining a healthy weight, doctors might analyze the amount of leptin in your blood to gauge how much body fat you have.

Ghrelin helps your brain understand when your stomach is empty. It gives your body a clear indication that it’s time to consume a nutritious meal. While people with low calorie intake have higher ghrelin levels, obesity has long been linked to low ghrelin.

Both of these hormones, ghrelin and leptin, are heavily influenced by your sleep quality and longevity. A single night of sleep deprivation has been shown to increase ghrelin levels in the body. The amount of leptin in your body rises when you sleep, telling your body that it doesn’t currently need more food. A lack of sleep can delay this rise in leptin, resulting in increased caloric intake.


High-quality sleep also helps to regulate your metabolism — the reactions in your body that provide you with the energy you need. Specifically, sleep helps maintain your insulin levels, protecting your energy supply and transporting that energy to cells and tissues that need it. Without the right amount of sleep, your body might become resistant to insulin over time as it grows less efficient at deploying insulin and the energy it carries.

Without sufficient insulin distribution, your body can also store more fat than it needs. Many people see concentrations of fat around their abdomen, for example, after developing a resistance to insulin.

Mental health

Poor sleep can trigger a variety of mental health challenges, including anxiety and stress reactions. These reactions often lead to unhealthy eating habits, which add unnecessary calories beyond what your body can digest.

Stress eating also results in the consumption of foods that are high in fat, sugar, or artificial ingredients. These food items are particularly damaging to your body, particularly if you’re trying to manage your weight over time.

How do I optimize my sleep for weight management?

With a better understanding of the relationship between sleep and weight, let’s explore a few ways to achieve quality rest and weight management:

  • Follow a consistent sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends, to keep your body's circadian rhythms consistent.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine: Wind down before bed with activities that encourage your body toward rest. Stay away from high-intensity entertainment that might delay sleep onset.
  • Watch your diet: Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime. These can trigger digestion that delays when you fall asleep and can cause digestional discomfort. It’s also important to avoid caffeine and other stimulants that might keep you awake past your bedtime.
  • Stay active: Engage in regular physical activity, at least once a day. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week.
  • Limit fluid intake before bed: High levels of fluid intake can wake you up multiple times per night to visit the bathroom. The more bathroom trips you make, the fewer opportunities your body has to reach REM sleep.
  • Be mindful of daytime naps: Keep naps during the day below 30 minutes to avoid feeling groggy, tired, or confused. Stop all napping before 5:00 PM to give your body the chance to expend energy before the evening.
  • Consider professional help: If you suspect that a sleep disorder or other conditions is preventing you from getting the rest you need, don't wait to get help. Consult a certified sleep professional for guidance and a productive treatment plan.

On the surface, these strategies might not seem like they’ll make a big difference for your sleep or your weight. However, they all help train your body to:

  • Go to sleep at the same time each day.
  • Wake up at the same time each day.
  • Enjoy high-quality sleep each night.

If you can do these three things on a consistent basis, you’ll be able to manage your sleep, and your sleep’s effect on weight, much more effectively.

If you’re looking to optimize sleep for weight, you’ll also need the right sleep materials. Prioritize comfortable pillows, blankets, and other sleep accessories that support your body in the right ways. If you’re not satisfied with your bedroom environment, invest in a white noise machine or blackout curtains.

The biggest contributor to your bedroom sleep environment is your mattress. It should help support your head, neck, limbs, and back. If you sleep alongside a partner, your mattress should also minimize movements and keep you comfortably separated.

At Mattress Warehouse, we’re committed to helping you solve your best night’s sleep. That’s why we developed our patented bedMATCH sleep diagnostic program: to pair people with mattress options that tangibly improve the quality of their sleep. The system analyzes your height, weight, body type, and sleep position preferences before recommending a variety of mattresses made for people like you.

The bedMATCH system gives you the power in your search for a mattress. No more price haggling or sales hacks; just mattress options at every price point to improve your nightly rest.

Visit a local Mattress Warehouse to try the bedMATCH sleep program for yourself, or take our online bedMATCH quiz to browse mattress options right now.