A woman waking up and weighing herself on a scale

Sleep can help your employees deal with weight issues

Whether your employees are trying to lose or maintain weight or are struggling with obesity, addressing sleep problems can help.

Jason Ong, PhD
Director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at Nox Medical

Adults should sleep seven to nine hours per night for optimal sleep health. Scientific studies have consistently demonstrated the connection between insufficient sleep and weight gain. For example, people with short sleep duration were found to be 30 percent more likely to have excess weight and twice as likely to be affected by obesity compared to those getting optimal sleep.

Sleep and hormone activity

During sleep, the body is actively regulating certain hormones, including those that play an important role in metabolism and weight management. Poor sleep disrupts the release of leptin (the fullness hormone) and ghrelin (the hunger hormone). When these hormones are imbalanced, appetite and food intake increase, leading to weight gain.

Poor sleep’s effect on weight loss 

Insufficient sleep can undermine the efforts of those in a weight loss program. According to a two-week study of adults with obesity, those sleeping only 5.5 hours per night lost a smaller amount of body fat after moderately restricting calories compared to those sleeping 8.5 hours per night.

In another study, participants who reported poor sleep quality were more likely to regain their weight a year after completing a weight loss program compared to those with good sleep quality. 

Poor sleep and obesity

Sleep loss is a risk factor for obesity which, in turn, is a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which a person repeatedly stops breathing during sleep. In this frustrating cycle, people are also at risk for developing additional chronic conditions — from type 2 diabetes to heart disease and stroke.

The CDC characterizes obesity and sleep loss as epidemics as both continue an upward trend in the U.S. Because of the complexity of these conditions, a medical solution that looks at the interplay between the two will have a greater impact on your employees than looking at each condition in isolation and by different providers. 

Weight and the workplace

As employees age, hold sedentary jobs and put exercise on the back burner, maintaining weight can become more difficult. Add in a sleeping problem, and you have a recipe for a health problem that doesn’t simply go away.

The SleepCharge program is a Center of Expertise that specializes in helping people with concurrent, complex conditions. We’re staffed with physicians board certified in sleep medicine along with other disciplines and supported by a full cohort of sleep specialists, who work in concert to provide personalized care to each patient. 

Getting your employees’ sleep back on track can be just as important as diet and exercise in helping them lose or maintain weight. Providing care for sleep disorders has the additional benefit of helping your workforce manage other chronic conditions, improving their overall health and quality of life.


Sources: Beccuti, G et al. (2011). Sleep and obesity. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care; Cooper, C et al. (2018) Sleep deprivation and obesity in adults: a brief narrative review, BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med; Nedeltcheva, AV et al. (2010) Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity, Annals of Internal Medicine; Yannakoulia, M et al. (2017) Sleep quality is associated with weight loss maintenance status: the MedWeight study. Sleep Medicine.

Photo by Rostislav Sedlacek / AdobeStock