Sleep: Profound Effects on Weight Loss, Sports Performance, and Much More

author:  Kelly Gill, MS, RD, CSSD, LD


I remember a client who wanted to lose weight.  She was doing everything right but was not losing any weight.

Can you relate?  Are you eating less and working out more and still not losing weight?  If so, you should read this article.


The topic of sleep has been of particular importance to me from an early start in my career.  I know the impact of sleep deprivation on my own performance at work and ability to withstand illnesses.  It’s a basic fact that whenever I am consistently sleep deprived, I get sick.  This happens every time, without fail.


I have investigated the research and decided to put together an infographic and blog on this topic that seems to be flying under the radar.


Back to this client of mine, the one who was doing everything I recommended but could not lose any weight.  It just didn’t add up, and I had to get to the bottom of things.  As I dug further, I discovered, she didn’t sleep much.  She was a single mom and worked nights.  She would try to get some sleep a couple of hours here and a couple hours there each day.  Never more than ~4 hours and never consecutive.  She changed nothing else but made a pact with me that she would get 6 hours of consecutive sleep per day (no errands, no laundry, no chores, nothing) for one week.  When she reported back to me the following week, she had lost 5 pounds!


You guys, NOTHING ELSE had changed!!!  All she did was get some sleep!


This was probably 15 years ago and, ever since, I’ve been waiting for the research to catch up.


Well, now it has!


I’ve done some review of the research and put this infographic together.  My particular interest is the impact sleep has on athletic performance.  So, this graphic is geared toward athletes, which includes all of us who work out regularly.


However, below, I’ve included further information on the effect of sleep deprivation for the general public.


The tips included in the infographic for getting enough sleep apply to everyone!




Sleep is our body’s way to reset ALL of its systems.  It stands to reason, that nearly every bodily function can and will be affected by chronic sleep deprivation.  Here is a list of some of those functions that are affected by lack of sleep:


  • Cardiovascular system – affects blood pressure and lipid levels, including cholesterol and triglycerides.  Women seem to be more sensitive to this phenomenon
  • Central nervous system – including Alzheimer’s disease and stroke
  • Cognitive function – impact on focus and memory, as well as language ability
  • Hormone regulation –  including the hormones that impact stress and control appetite, as well as insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar
  • Immune function – including susceptibility to infection
  • Inflammation – increased inflammatory markers, which are linked to chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers
  • Mental and emotional health – this includes anxiety and depression, as well as coping skills and behavior
  • Metabolic function – digestion, absorption, and metabolism
  • Physical function – sports performance, energy, coordination
  • Weight management – increased body mass index (BMI) and a strong link to obesity in children, as well as adults


In other words, sleep is a really big deal.


Here are some tips, from the above infographic, to ensure an adequate night sleep:

  1. Keep a regular bedtime routine, which should include the following right before bed:
    1. Turn off all screens and bright lights that cue your body to wake up (ideally up to 2 hours ahead of bedtime)
    2. Limit liquids an hour or two before bedtime
    3. Avoid caffeine
    4. Avoid alcohol
    5. Avoid exercise
    6. Take a hot shower or bath
    7. Try relaxation methods, like deep breathing, prayer, meditation, or non-stimulating activity, like reading a book
  2. Sleep in a cold, dark, and quiet room
  3. Sleep in a comfortable bed, that is for sleeping only
  4. Stay out of your head, make relaxation the goal and not necessarily sleep.
  5. Follow an anti-inflammatory diet


If you are unable to get a good night sleep, don’t underestimate the power of a short daytime nap.  A 30 minute nap can restore alertness, boost memory, enhance performance and promote learning.  As per the infographic above, here are some of the tips for taking and waking from a power nap:

  1. Turn off all devices before the nap.
  2. Use a white noise machine or wear ear plugs during the nap.
  3. Use black out shades or an eye mask during the nap.
  4. Drink a little caffeine prior to the nap.  This will allow you to awaken more easily and be more alert afterwards.
  5. Set an alarm for 15-30 minutes and do not snooze.
  6. Splash water on your face as soon as you wake up.
  7. Turn on a bright light upon waking to restore alertness.
  8. Do some quick and easy exercises like jumping jacks, push ups, or jogging in place to get your blood circulating, which helps with wakefulness.


It is important to get enough sleep each night.  You will feel and function better.  If you don’t have any problems with sleep, you may not need to do any of the above suggestions.  If you struggle with sleep, then you might start by implementing one or two of the above suggestions, and continue to add until you consistently achieve that good sleep you desire and need!  If you have tried the above suggestions and still struggle with sleep, you should see a physician.

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  • Dale Ross November 15, 2017 Reply

    Our friends in Mexico have had it right for years — I have experienced how a brief “power nap” in the afternoon can propel you to higher productivity for the balance of the day — great research – thanks for sharing!!

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