Stop Focusing on Weight Loss! How Sleep May Help

Sleep and Living a Healthier Life is the fourth in a blog series helping you to focus on making healthier choices and living a healthier life. 

Struggling with weight is nothing new, and if weight loss is achieved, many struggle to maintain it. With hectic schedules, convenient foods, genetics, and changes in your metabolism that accompany age, weight loss and maintenance can be a challenge. We know the struggle so let’s change the approach! Let’s focus on leading a healthier life by setting realistic goals, making deliberate choices, rewarding ourselves for goals achieved, and reaching out for assistance when we need it without focusing specifically on weight loss.  

If you have not, we invite you to read the first three blogs in the series, focusing on changing to a healthy living mindset, developing a healthy eating plan, and physical activity. We invite you to also check your BMI. AARP has a BMI calculator that can be used by a person of any age to help you determine where you are currently and where you should be based on your height and current weight.  

Sleep and Living a Healthier Life 

According to the Sleep Foundation, over the past several decades, the amount of time that Americans spend sleeping has steadily decreased, as has the self-reported quality of that sleep. For much of the same time, the average BMI of Americans increased, reflecting a trend toward higher body weights and elevated rates of obesity. Lack of sleep can also affect your mental health and day-to-day activities, preventing you from feeling good and deterring you from your goals of living a healthier life.  

In response to these trends, many researchers began to hypothesize about potential connections between weight and sleep. Numerous studies have suggested that restricted sleep and poor sleep quality may lead to metabolic disorders, weight gain, and an increased risk of obesity and other chronic health conditions. While there is continuing debate within the medical community about the exact nature of this relationship, the existing research points to a positive correlation between good sleep and healthy body weight. 

There remains much to be discovered about the intricate details of how sleep and weight are connected. Several hypotheses offer paths for additional research with the hope that increasing our understanding of the relationship between weight and sleep will lead to reduced obesity. 

Can Lack of Sleep Increase Appetite? 

One common hypothesis about the connection between weight and sleep involves how sleep affects appetite. While we often think of appetite as simply a matter of stomach grumbling, it’s controlled by neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that allow neurons (nerve cells) to communicate with one another. The neurotransmitters ghrelin and leptin are thought to be central to appetite. Ghrelin promotes hunger, and leptin contributes to feeling full. The body naturally increases and decreases the levels of these neurotransmitters throughout the day, signaling the need to consume calories. A lack of sleep may affect the body’s regulation of these neurotransmitters. In one study, men who got four hours of sleep had increased ghrelin and decreased leptin compared to those who got 10 hours of sleep. This dysregulation of ghrelin and leptin may lead to increased appetite and diminished feelings of fullness in people who are sleep deprived. 

Many researchers believe that the connection between sleep and the dysregulation of neurotransmitters is complicated and additional studies are needed to further understand the neurobiological relationship. 

Whether or not speculative in nature, sleeping the required hours per night and having a restful sleep can have a positive effect on your overall health.  

This series will continue to deliver tips to help you achieve your goals. There are times when focusing on making healthier choices presents challenges and help is never far away. Speak with your healthcare provider about your health goals, your weight goals, your overall health, and the challenges you face. Your provider can assist in guiding you on your health journey.  

As part of living a healthier life, RPM Healthcare offers remote patient monitoring for weight loss and maintenance with the goal of not only helping you feel good, but to prevent or help treat heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Visit for more information. 

Article has been reviewed by Dr. Irina Koyfman, DNP, NP-C, RN, Chief Population Health Officer, RPM Healthcare.

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