Sleep, Stress, & Weight Gain

By Chloe Olvera

Getting enough sleep is important for any weight loss plan. The average adult should get 7 or more hours of sleep per night, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Not getting enough sleep is linked to weight gain and obesity. Cortisol (stress hormone) levels are increased with a lack of sleep and are also associated with weight gain.

Lack of Sleep

Regularly sleeping less than 7 hours per night comes with many negative health effects: obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, higher risk of death, and much more. In The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss, Dr. Jason Fung discusses how getting 5 to 6 hours of sleep is associated with more than a 50% increased risk of weight gain. He also mentions how just one night of sleep deprivation increases cortisol levels by 100% and the following night cortisol levels are still 37-45% higher than they normally would be.

It is generally recommended to sleep 7 to 9 hours per night. However, sleeping more than 9 hours per night may be good for young adults, those making up for previous sleep deprivation, and those with illnesses.


Having chronically elevated cortisol levels are strongly associated with higher blood sugar and insulin levels, both of which can lead to obesity. On the other hand, lower cortisol levels are linked to weight loss. Reducing stress is important for losing weight.

What You Can Do

If your obesity or weight gain is related to sleep deprivation or excess stress, and not due to a poor diet or eating schedule, here are some tips for healthy sleep and stress reduction.

Getting healthy sleep:

  • Sleep 7-9 hours per night

  • Sleep in the dark, without lights on (naturally increases melatonin, an important hormone for sleep)

  • Avoid going on your phone or computer before bed (due to the presence of blue light which affects melatonin)

  • Don’t keep a TV in your bedroom

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes to bed

  • Keep your bedroom cool

  • Maintain the same sleep schedule every night

Reducing stress:

  • Getting healthy sleep

  • Regular exercise

  • Remove yourself from stressful situations

  • Yoga or mindfulness meditation (with a set daily routine)

  • Massage therapy

  • Staying socially connected (however, remember to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, try virtual alternatives)

Important note: Making stress reduction an active process is better than trying to reduce stress by doing nothing. Be proactive about your weight loss plan and know we are here to help if you are interested in our program at Beyond Practice.

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