Can’t seem to lose weight? Not getting enough sleep could hinder you from attaining weight loss goals
03/01/2020 // Darnel Fernandez // Views

Obesity has been a growing health problem over the years, especially in the United States. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), more than one in three adults are considered obese. This excess weight can bring negative effects to a person's wellbeing and even inhibit their day-to-day activities. To make matters worse, those looking to lose the aforementioned weight might find that they are unable to do so; which often implies an underlying condition. But, recent research suggests that poor sleep might be the culprit that prevents you from attaining your desired weight.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, both sleep loss and sleep variability can hinder a person's ability to lose weight. This is the first study to examine whether sleep quality is associated with weight loss and the reduction in adipose tissue.

“The rise in obesity prevalence rates over the past decades parallels an epidemic of sleep disturbances,” wrote the researchers. "In this context, the PREDIMED-Plus, a new ongoing primary cardiovascular prevention trial based [on] an intensive weight-loss lifestyle intervention program, provides an unprecedented opportunity to examine the 12-month changes in weight and adiposity measures between those participants with short or adequate sleep duration and between those with low or high sleep variability."

The link between sleep and obesity

While adults need at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to stay healthy and feel rested, many people often fail to reach the sleep quota. According to statistics by the American Sleep Association, around 35.3 percent of adults have sleep sessions that last less than 7 hours during a typical 24-hour period. In addition, 37 percent of adults aged 20-39 years old and 40 percent of adults aged 40-59  years old all report a much shorter sleep duration than normal. (Related: Why skimping on sleep could be making you FAT.)


In the current study, researchers from the Rovira i Virgili University in Spain, in conjunction with other research groups involved in the PREDIMED-Plus study, aimed to compare the changes in weight and adiposity between individuals with varying sleep durations and sleep variability. The PREDIMED-plus is a clinical trial that studied the beneficial effects of following a Mediterranean diet in a Spanish cohort.

To do so, the researchers gathered and analyzed the medical data of 1986 participants with a mean age of 65 years over the course of a year. Each of these participants presented overweight, obesity and metabolic syndrome — which refers to a cluster of health risk factors like high blood pressure, increased insulin levels. abnormal blood lipid levels and low glucose tolerance.

For 12 months, the patients followed an intensive intervention program in terms of a lifestyle designed for weight loss. This lifestyle revolved around eating a low-calorie Mediterranean diet, behavior therapy to improve habits and increased physical activity.

From the results, the researchers observed that participants with highly variable sleeping patterns — or those who did not sleep the same number of hours each night — at a baseline loss significantly less weight after a follow-up period of 12 months. Furthermore, high sleep variability and sleeping less than six hours a day was also associated with a lower decrease in body mass index and weight circumference.

These results revealed that adopting lifestyle changes that can help you achieve an appropriate sleep pattern can also help you maintain the correct weight and prevent certain metabolic diseases associated with excess body fat.

“[T]he findings of our study highlight the importance of sleep characteristics on weight and adiposity responses to lifestyle intervention programs in elders with metabolic syndrome,” the researchers conclude. “Future lifestyle interventions aiming at weight loss should promote adequate sleep and a regular sleep pattern.”

Learn more about the effects of sleep at

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