Skip to main content

Experts reveal how to lose weight while you sleep

Losing weight can be impacted by your sleep

man sleeping on his side
Ollyy / Shutterstock

We all know getting enough sleep and the quality of your sleep are critical to your overall mental and physical health. If losing weight to be healthier is one of your goals, how you sleep can be an important component. We asked experts from various fields to weigh in on what you can be doing to maximize weight loss while you slumber, and the results may surprise you. The bottom line? Getting good quality sleep will impact your body’s ability to lose weight and to manage stress which can lead to weight gain.

How to maximize sleep for weight loss

Carlie Gasia, a Certified Sleep Science Coach at Sleepopolis, said there are a few factors to consider when thinking about weight loss. Some depend on the sleep itself and others depend on what you do with your waking hours.

Get enough sleep

“Aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night to support healthy weight management,” she said. “Research has shown that people who get less sleep tend to weigh more and have higher body fat percentages.” While the number of hours are important (and many of us struggle to get those precious hours), the quality of your sleep is equally as important.

Optimize sleep quality

Getting high quality sleep, said Gasia, is critical to burning fat. “Create a comfortable sleep environment by keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet,” she said. “Limit exposure to screens before bedtime and avoid caffeine and alcohol.” This will help you fall into the REM sleep, a phase of sleep when your brain activity, breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure all increase, and it’s also when you would “burn the most fat during sleep,” added Rachel MacPherson, a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise nutrition specialist. Finally, “minimizing the amount of light around you,” said Yelena Wheeler MPH, RDN and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist of MIDSS. This means darkening shades in the bedroom, limited TV, and no flashlights.

Sleep at the same time every day

“Having a sleeping pattern helps keep the body balanced,” said Blanca Garcia, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. “The body is a system; a balanced system also can affect the way you eat; good sleep keeps you on a cycle of good habits even with eating.” It may sound silly but setting an alarm to remind you that you need to be in bed in 15 minutes can help regulate sleep patterns.

An overhead shot of fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meat, nuts, and seeds with "Whole 30 diet" written on a small blackboard.
Yulia Furman/Shutterstock

What you do during the day matters

Your activity levels and eating habits can play a role in how you can maximize weight loss at night. Here are a few tips and tricks to do just that.

Build muscle mass

Building muscle through exercise can help you burn more calories throughout the day, even while you sleep,” Gasia added. “Strength training exercises such as weight lifting, resistance band training, or bodyweight exercises can help build muscle mass and increase your basal metabolic rate.” If you are new to weight lifting and want to lose weight, adding simple exercises to your cardio routine can feel manageable and you can work your way up to more weight and higher reps as you go.

Follow a healthy diet

Many people want to know “will I gain weight if I sleep after eating?” and the short answer is no. Eating a healthy, balanced diet supports overall weight loss and also impacts how to burn fat while sleeping, but it comes down to calories in and calories out in a 24 hour period. “Focus on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains,” Gasia said. “Avoid processed and high-sugar foods that can disrupt hormones and promote weight gain.” But, added MacPherson, skipping carbs at night is a myth when it comes to fat loss. “It’s about overall calorie balance (in/out) and not about what happens at any particular time of day or night,” she said.

Manage stress

Stress is a big sleep disrupter and can promote weight gain overall. Practice stress-management, said Gasia, like “meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.” Conversely, a lack of quality sleep “definitely increases stress levels that can affect weight loss goals,” said Garcia. “Therefore sleeping well is a great way to complement a healthy lifestyle.”

One way to manage stress before bed is using natural essential oils to improve sleep, said Po-Chang Hsu, Doctor of Medicine (MD) and a Medical Content Expert at “Some people feel that the smell of lavender and similar oils like chamomile and marjoram creates a soothing scent in the room that helps them relax and makes it easiest to fall asleep,” she said. “Try a few drops in a humidifier that can run while you sleep.”

How many calories do you burn sleeping?

If you want to lose weight, you probably want to know how many calories you can burn while sleeping. According to the Sleep Foundation, we burn around 50 calories an hour, which can vary slight depending on our personal basal metabolic rate and how much a person weights. The average number of calories is around 250-450 depending on these factors.

All of these factors will play a role in how you metabolize food, manage stress, and stay healthy throughout your life. If you don’t prioritize sleep and want to lose weight, you should start.

Editors' Recommendations

Julie Scagell
I am a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, MN. My passions include my dogs, talking about my dogs, and taking pictures of…
10 foods high in tryptophan to help you sleep better
Tryptophan can help you sleep and shows up in more foods than just turkey. Here's what to eat
Turkey being carved on a cutting board.

Most people who have heard of tryptophan associate it with the postprandial sleepiness that ensues after your big Thanksgiving meal or another big turkey dinner. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means that it must be consumed in the diet because the body cannot manufacture it on its own. Tryptophan is used by the body to synthesize various proteins, as well as niacin (a B vitamin), and a molecule known as  5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP. Because 5-HTP is a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin, inadequate intake of tryptophan can cause depression, low mood, sleep disturbances, and behavioral changes.
On the other hand, by consuming foods high in tryptophan, you can help ensure your body has adequate levels of this amino acid to support ample serotonin and melatonin production. Essentially tryptophan foods will help you sleep at night.
Although turkey is one of the best sources of dietary tryptophan, there are plenty of other foods with tryptophan as well. Because tryptophan is an amino acid, most tryptophan-rich foods are proteins. However, if you’re a vegetarian or not a fan of poultry or meat, there are a few plant-based options as well.

Turkey doesn’t get its rap for having a lot of tryptophan for no reason — it certainly does. For example, for a 70-kg (154-pound) man, a 6-ounce serving of ground turkey, containing 612 mg of tryptophan, will be more than double what he needs. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of tryptophan is 4 mg per kilogram of body weight, so each 6-ounce serving of ground turkey provides 219% of the RDI.
The same-sized portion of roast turkey breast provides 488 mg or 174% of the RDI. While these numbers are certainly impressive and hefty enough to substantiate the claims that turkey contains a lot of tryptophan, turkey actually doesn’t lead the race in foods highest in tryptophan.
The crown goes to chicken breast, as a 6-ounce portion packs a walloping 687 mg, or 245% of the RDI for a 70-kg person. Recommended Daily Intake (RDI). Other poultry sources high in tryptophan include roast chicken (507 mg or 181% RDI) per cup and roast duck (458 mg or 164% RDI) per cup.

Read more
The states where people get the most (and least) sleep
Where does sleep deprivation hit the hardest?
White man in a red shirt with his hand on his head

America may be the land of opportunity, but it's become all too normal to sacrifice sleep to get ahead. Burnout culture is real, and despite its negative effects on our health and well-being, many people praise the "hustle" and wear their lack of sleep like a badge of honor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of adults in the United States regularly report not getting enough sleep. And approximately 40% of adults admit to unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once per month. These statistics paint a grim picture of the sleep situation in America.

Read more
How much water should you drink in a day? The truth will probably surprise you
Are you drinking enough water every day? Here's how much H2O your body needs
Man drinking from water bottle on mountain

How much water should you drink in a day? The standard answer is eight eight-ounce glasses.

Except the recommendation is a misnomer. The guidance to consume eight glasses of water daily began in the 1940s when the Food and Nutrition Board recommended that people drink eight water glasses daily. The caveat? The water didn’t have to be in a glass. The guidance also noted, “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.” (Fruits and vegetables, like the appropriately-named watermelon, are mostly water.) Also, the definition of eight glasses of water daily was 2.5 liters (84.5 ounces), 20.5 ounces more than the 64 ounces contained in eight eight-ounce cups.

Read more