How Much Sleep You Should Get To Maintain A Healthy Weight

Sleep is absolutely essential to our overall health and functioning, as the Sleep Foundation points out. Most people are aware of the side effects of not getting enough sleep — generally not feeling well, trouble concentrating, mood swings, an inability to think clearly and organize thoughts, and lots more. You may already be aware of the importance of maintaining regular, healthy sleep habits, but did you know that a lack of adequate sleep can lead to weight gain?

WebMD explains the various links between too little sleep and weight gain, or the inability to lose weight. For starters, a lack of sleep can lead us to crave comforting foods, which may be high in fat and calories. Additionally, sleep deprivation inhibits our metabolism's functionality, and our metabolism is responsible for turning the food we eat into energy. Messing with this delicate metabolic process can impair the body's ability to burn energy, in turn converting more food into fat.

Lastly, lack of sleep affects two important hormones in weight management: leptin and ghrelin (via WebMD). "Ghrelin is the 'go' hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ... Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin," clinical sleep director Dr. Michael Breus told WebMD. This, plus the above factors, can lead to weight gain.

How much sleep do you need to prevent weight gain and maintain a healthy weight?

It might be less than you think

Findings from a 2022 study that were presented at the European Congress on Obesity meeting have provided new insights into the link between sleep deprivation and weight gain, pointing to a minimum of six hours of sleep per night to maintain a healthy weight. However, the researchers specified that this isn't a blanket rule of thumb — the amount of sleep one person needs to stave off weight gain is different from another.

The aforementioned study also found a connection between a healthy diet and sleep. After following a restrictive diet plan for two months, participants improved their sleep quality and were able to sleep for longer periods of time. The addition of exercise to this weight-loss regimen not only helped with dropping pounds but also contributed to the improvements in sleep. Ultimately, participants who slept for fewer than six hours a night didn't notice any weight loss and even saw an increase in weight over a year's time.

"It was intriguing that adults who aren't sleeping enough or getting poor quality sleep after weight loss appear less successful at maintaining weight loss than those with sufficient sleep," said co-author of the study, Adrian Bogh.

The good news is that there are ways to improve your quality and duration of sleep. In addition to regular exercise, the Mayo Clinic advises keeping to a strict sleep schedule, limiting or avoiding daytime naps, and leaving at least two hours between a heavy meal and bedtime.