For effec­tive weight loss, sleep can be as impor­tant as diet and exer­cise.

There is grow­ing evi­dence that sleep may be the miss­ing fac­tor for many peo­ple try­ing to lose weight. Here are five rea­sons why get­ting enough sleep can help you lose weight.

Risk factor for weight gain and obesity

Poor sleep has been repeat­ed­ly linked to high­er body mass index (BMI) and weight gain. Peo­ple’s sleep needs vary, but in gen­er­al, sci­en­tists have found changes in weight when peo­ple sleep less than sev­en hours a night. Although most of these stud­ies were obser­va­tion­al, weight gain has also been observed in exper­i­men­tal sleep depri­va­tion stud­ies. In one case, 16 adults were allowed to sleep just five hours a night for five nights. Dur­ing this short peri­od, they gained an aver­age of 0.82 kilo­grams.

May increase appetite

Many stud­ies have shown that peo­ple who suf­fer from sleep depri­va­tion com­plain of increased appetite. This is like­ly caused by sleep­’s effect on two impor­tant hunger hor­mones: ghre­lin and lep­tin. Ghre­lin is a hor­mone that is released in the stom­ach and sig­nals hunger to the brain. Its lev­els are high before meals, that is, when the stom­ach is emp­ty, and low after meals. Lep­tin is a hor­mone secret­ed by fat cells. It sup­press­es the feel­ing of hunger and sig­nals sati­ety. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body pro­duces more ghre­lin and less lep­tin, caus­ing your appetite to increase. Addi­tion­al­ly, when you don’t get enough sleep, your lev­els of cor­ti­sol, a stress hor­mone, increase and can also increase your appetite.

(Read also: 9 Ways Lack of Sleep Affects Our Health

Helps fight food cravings

Lack of sleep can make it dif­fi­cult to adopt healthy lifestyle habits and avoid tempt­ing foods. Sleep depri­va­tion actu­al­ly reduces activ­i­ty in the frontal lobe of the brain, which is respon­si­ble for deci­sion mak­ing and self-con­trol. It also turns out that the brain’s reward cen­ters are more stim­u­lat­ed by food when you’re sleep-deprived. So, after a night of bad sleep, not only will a buck­et of ice cream be more sat­is­fy­ing, but you’ll prob­a­bly have a hard­er time keep­ing your­self togeth­er.

Poor sleep may increase calorie intake

Peo­ple who sleep poor­ly tend to con­sume more calo­ries. A study of 12 men found that when par­tic­i­pants were allowed only four hours of sleep, they ate an aver­age of 559 calo­ries more the next day com­pared to when they were allowed eight hours of sleep. This increase in calo­ries may be due to increased appetite and poor food choic­es, as men­tioned above. Addi­tion­al­ly, it could also sim­ply be due to increased time spent awake and avail­able for eat­ing. This is espe­cial­ly true when wak­ing hours are spent inac­tive, such as in front of the TV.

(Read also: Is it use­ful to sleep dur­ing the day and what is the best way to do it)

Getting enough sleep can increase physical activity

Lack of sleep can cause day­time fatigue, mak­ing you less like­ly and less moti­vat­ed to exer­cise. In addi­tion, dur­ing phys­i­cal activ­i­ty you will get tired ear­li­er. A study of 15 men found that when par­tic­i­pants were sleep deprived, the amount and inten­si­ty of their phys­i­cal activ­i­ty decreased. The good news is that more sleep can help improve your ath­let­ic per­for­mance. In anoth­er hypoth­e­sis test­ed, col­lege bas­ket­ball play­ers were asked to spend 10 hours in bed every night for five to sev­en weeks. They became faster, their reac­tion times improved, their accu­ra­cy increased, and their fatigue lev­els decreased.

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