Obesity has been dubbed an epidemic in America (and other countries) for many years now, and of course, exercise and a healthy diet have long been “prescribed” as the best way to lose weight and keep it off. However, a recent study out of Denmark highlights the importance of good sleep when it comes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, too. The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona is proud to be the Face of Sleep Medicine in Arizona, where you will find the “Top Doc” in the region for the last six consecutive years. We are driven by outcomes, and that starts with the right diagnosis. With unprecedented staffing levels, including a clinical psychologist who focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), if you are not getting the sleep you need and deserve, The Insomnia and Sleep Institute can help you address and manage all types of sleep disorders.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen presented their findings during the 2022 European Congress on Obesity. According to the lead author, “Our results show that there are a lot of variables that impact the regain of weight loss … how you sleep, including sleep quality and duration, should be taken into consideration because it is so difficult to maintain weight loss.” Exercise improves sleep, sleep improves exercise, so this is a cyclical and symbiotic relationship that is paramount when it comes to keeping a healthy weight.

Sleep Matters for Weight Loss

An attendee at the event, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said that the report does “raise the possibility as to whether intervening upon sleep after weight loss would help maintain weight loss.” However, it is important to bear in mind that this convening was not a sleep-centric event. For sleep experts, it has long been known that sleep (for better or worse) directly impacts and informs every facet of a person’s life and health. Poor sleep is linked to a myriad of co-morbidities including cardiac events, mental health issues like depression and anxiety, and, of course, carrying excess weight. In fact, for one of the most common sleep disorders—obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)—one of the leading factors related to it is obesity. Losing weight can even be enough of a lifestyle change to “cure” OSA, but this often requires intervention with CPAP therapy first so that the patient can get the sleep they need to be active enough to lose weight.

While some attendees at the conference were not keen on “inferring causality” between sleep and maintaining weight loss, the possibility did pique their interest. According to the professor, “What’s interesting is that it’s not always duration that is the dimension of sleep most strongly associated with better weight loss.” He also noted that exercise is well-known for improving sleep, so the two—sleep and maintaining weight loss—are closely intertwined.

Studies on Sleep and Exercise

There have been other studies that explore the relationship between sleep and weight loss. For example, a 2021 study found that sleep timing and how regular a person was when waking in the morning were the strongest indicators and predictors of weight loss. This was found to be even more important than the duration of sleep. However, a doctor at the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital pointed out that sleep quality and duration are critical: “In the field of obesity, we recognize that along with diet and physical activity, sleep is a key behavior that needs to be addressed in any intervention.” As such, questions about sleep quality and duration, as well as how many times a person wakes up during the night and sleep hygiene, are all asked during an analysis at the Center.

The Denmark researchers drew data from a secondary analysis that included 195 adults with obesity who were part of an 8-week ultra-low-calorie (800 per day) study, in which they lost an average of 12% of their body weight. They were then moved to a maintenance program for 12 months where each were given various doses of either a placebo, GLP-1 agonist liraglutide injection, or the liraglutide injection with an exercise regimen. Participants were also grouped based on their average hours of sleep per night (split into more or less than six hours) as well as sleep quality. Ultimately, the liraglutide injections seemed to show no effect on sleep quality. However, one year after initial weight loss, the BMI increased in those with less than six hours of sleep by 1.4 kg/m2 while those who enjoyed more than six hours of sleep had almost no weight gain (.02). Sleep is important for health, full stop. If you are struggling with getting the sleep you need, schedule a consultation with The Insomnia and Sleep Institute today. Call the office or, for the quickest response, fill out the online contact form.