Can’t Lose Weight? Why Sleep Might Be the Problem

by JJ Virgin on March 24, 2022

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one-third of American adults aren’t consistently getting at least seven hours of sleep every night. 

Sleeping less than seven hours every night can crash your health in so many ways. Subpar sleep can increase the risk of:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Frequent mental distress (1)

Getting great sleep sometimes demands a sleep specialist, especially with situations like sleep apnea and insomnia.

But many other situations require a few simple tweaks, including good sleep hygiene and taking sleep support nutrients. 

How Poor Sleep Can Stall Weight Loss

No matter why you’re exhausted, you’re set up to fail. With poor sleep, the weight will never come off.

That’s because sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on your hormones and makes you crave carbs (especially sugar). 

There are a lot of reasons why people struggle with sleep. Among them:

  • You don’t have enough hours in the day to finish everything… so you overdo caffeine to compensate
  • You’re having a few glasses of wine to fall asleep
  • You eat or exercise too late
  • You’re staring at screens, and the blue light is interfering with sleep
  • You’re anxious, depressed, or stressed out

Any of these sound familiar? You're not alone: Almost everyone struggles with at least one of them.

Regardless of why you’re not sleeping well, not addressing the situation will only make things worse.

Even a single sleep-deprived night can throw your stress hormones out of balance.

As a result, you're hungrier and those hormonal imbalances signal your body to hang on to fat.

Stress and sleep go together. Stress inhibits sleep and a lack of sleep increases stress, and around and around it goes.  

That hormonal mess spins off fat that sticks to your waistline.  

In one study, folks who regularly got less than 7 hours of sleep at night had a higher average body mass index (BMI), a marker of obesity. They also had higher levels of ghrelin (your hunger hormone), lower levels of leptin (your satiety hormone), higher inflammatory markers, and lower insulin sensitivity. (2)

Another study – this one among 68,183 middle-aged women enrolled in the Nurses Health Study – found that those who slept for only five hours per night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain.

What’s more, 15 percent of these women were more likely to become obese over the course of the 16-year study compared with women who slept 7 hours. (3)

The overall effect of those numbers wreaks havoc on your waistline and overall health. 

Not getting quality sleep makes it only harder to make good food and exercise choices. When you’re exhausted,  you’ll never look and feel your best whether you want to lose a few pounds or not. 

The sweet spot if you want to burn fat, build muscle, reduce stress, and feel good is 7-9 hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep every night. 

“​​Remember, sleep is not a luxury or a treat, like splurging on dessert,” says my buddy Michael Breus, PhD, in The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan. “Sleep is a necessary physiological function that keeps you alive.”

So let’s take bedtime back with these nine simple, effective strategies.

Sleep Better Strategy #1: Create a Power-Down Hour

Many people fall asleep browsing social media, mindlessly watching TV, or engaged in a stimulating movie. And they don’t make that connection between how they fall asleep and sleep quality. 

Breus recommends preparing for sleep an hour or so before bedtime, which he calls the power-down hour. 

Power down electronics or wear blue blocking glasses. (Blue light from your phone or tablet messes up your sleep, even after you turn them off.)

Beyond that, find what works for you to create calm and lower stress hormones. Smart choices include meditation, deep breathing, journaling on gratitude, having some chamomile tea, or taking an Epsom salt bath.

Learn more about meditation with my pal Emily Fletcher here.

Remember that you’re laying the foundation for a solid night’s sleep. It's worth the effort to find a power-down routine that works for you.  

Sleep Better Strategy #2: Keep Sleep Consistent 

As much as you can, go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. Here’s how that might look:

7 p.m. – close the kitchen after a healthy dinner

9 p.m. – power down hour

10 p.m. – go to sleep

7 am. – wake up refreshed

Sleep Better Strategy #3: Cut Back on Alcohol

I’m not telling you to abstain. I'm not going to take your alcohol away from you! You can keep your Dry Farm Wines, but keep it at dinner, not as a crutch to doze off.

Oh sure, you’ll fall asleep (or more likely, pass out) after a few glasses of pinot noir. But the nasty aftermath is that too much alcohol dehydrates you, wakes you up at 3:30, and then you can’t go back to sleep.

If you imbibe, stick to one glass of wine with dinner and call it quits. (A glass, by the way, is five ounces… not one of those hulking glasses that holds half a bottle.) 

And if you do indulge in an occasional happy hour, remember to have twice as much water for every drink you enjoy. 

Sleep Better Strategy #4: Cut Back on Caffeine

Tossing and turning after a mid-afternoon java pick-me-up? You may be a slow caffeine metabolizer, so that afternoon caffeine stays in your system when you should be winding down. 

But even if you’re not a slow metabolizer, having caffeine too late in the day can steal your sleep. 

The simple solution is to switch to decaf green tea in the afternoon. And if you need caffeine to power through your day, you’ll want to look especially close at your sleep patterns.

Sleep Better Strategy #5: Get Nutrients for Sleep Support

Even the best sleepers sometimes need a helping hand falling or staying asleep. And most of us could use that helping hand often.

Pharmaceutical medications may help you get to sleep. But more often than not, they adversely impact sleep quality. Overall, their drawbacks outweigh whatever benefits they promise.

I created Sleep Candy™ to help you fall and stay asleep better.  This synergistic blend of science-supported nutrients includes melatonin, 5-HTP, vitamin B6, inositol, and L-theanine.

Unlike other sleep aids, Sleep Candy™  doesn’t give you a hangover. Instead, it calms down your mind and helps you relax. 

Sleep Candy™ lowers stress and helps you relax, for deep, restorative sleep every single night. * Plus, it tastes delicious.

You can only get Sleep Candy™ here.

Sleep Better Strategy #6: Close Your Kitchen After Dinner

Oh, I know how tempting grabbing something crunchy during those evening reruns of Friends can be, but snacking spells bad news for your waistline and your sleep.

Eat your early dinner by the clock and the plate, then shut your kitchen about 3 – 4 hours before bedtime. (And no, that doesn’t mean stay up later!)

If you think you’re hungry, try a glass of water before bed. One study at the University of Washington found that drinking 8 ounces of water at bedtime can shut down your evening hunger pangs. (4)

Sleep Better Strategy #7: Exercise at the Right Time

Exercise helps you sleep, plus it’s great for so many other things.

Working out matters, but so does when you workout. Exercise too late in the day makes it harder to fall asleep, because you’re wired when you should be tired.

The best time to work out is in the morning, fasted. That gives you the biggest bang, including managing stress and being the best fat burner.  (Learn three reasons that you should work out fasted in my Medium article.) 

And if you feel like you need to cut into your sleep time to get great exercise, allow me to bust that myth! Burst training can give you an intense, full-body workout in just minutes. Learn how here

Sleep Better Strategy #8: Manage Stress

Even before the pandemic, stress was rampant. The last few years just dialed it up a bit more. 

Stress can make you miserable in a zillion ways, including cutting into your sleep. 

Fortunately, you’ve got a ton of ways to beat back stress. A healthy diet, exercise, meditation, gratitude, and engaging with family and friends are a few smart ones.

Here’s another one: Whenever possible, cut out the things you know ADD stress.

This podcast gives you all of my favorite strategies to crush stress levels so you feel better and sleep better. 

Sleep Better Strategy #9: Nap Smartly

My first thought is, Who has time to nap!? But I know some of you do. (Lucky you!)

A short nap can improve memory, your overall health, plus it feels so darn good. 

Just make sure that nap isn’t cutting into your sleep… and that you’re not using a nap to compensate for subpar sleep.

If you do get a nap, keep it to 10 – 20 minutes. Otherwise, you may be groggy the rest of the day. Plus, napping too long can cut into your nighttime sleep.

Suboptimal sleep—either not enough or not under the right conditions—can totally sabotage your weight, not to mention the rest of your health. Sleep is essential. And these strategies can give you an edge so that you get solid, uninterrupted zzz’s every single night.

 Our Sleep Support Bundle combines 2 powerful, effective formulas: Sleep Candy™ (with melatonin and other sleep-support nutrients) and Magnesium Body Calm (to help you unwind and drift into sleep).* The end result is deep, restorative sleep every single night.* Get the bundle at a special price here.


  2. Cooper CB, Neufeld EV, Dolezal BA, Martin JL. Sleep deprivation and obesity in adults: a brief narrative review. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2018 Oct 4;4(1):e000392. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000392. PMID: 30364557; PMCID: PMC6196958.
  3. American Thoracic Society. (2006, May 29). Sleeping Less Linked To Weight Gain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 17, 2022 from
  4. University of Washington Study. 2002. Reported in Integrated and Alternative Medicine Clinical Highlights. Aug 4:1(16).

The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern. The information here is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or condition. Statements contained here have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.