How much weight can you lose by sleeping in?

When I wrote about the new diet drug semaglutide (Wegovy) years ago, I did not foresee how the nutty rich and famous would embrace it. Who is prescribing this drug to Elon Musk and Chelsea Handler?

This class of drugs mimics a natural hormone and tricks our brains to feel less hungry. It’s expensive and in short supply. While we wait for the fad and price to settle down, I want to bring up other natural and healthy appetite suppressants – dietary fiber, healthy oil, stress management ... and sleep – a big appetite influencer that people consistently overlook. Probably nobody knows just how serious a player it is.

We’ve all heard or experienced food craving after a poor night’s sleep. A recent study puts a caloric number to that craving.

But first, let’s chat about calories. Calories are an energy unit (kcal). To estimate my daily energy need, I went online and played with the first four apps that popped up. They used simple information like age, sex, weight, and activity level. My daily energy need falls between 1,800 and 2,200 kcal. They’re not precise, but they’re in the ballpark.

Another important reference: running or walking a mile (2,000 steps equivalent), you’ll burn 80 to 140 kcal.

Good news for those just getting back to exercise: The heavier and more out-of-shape you are, the more calories you’ll burn. So don’t get frustrated if you’re huffing, puffing while speed walking, and a spandex goddess whizzes by barely breaking a sweat.


A. We feel you.

B. At that moment, drenched in sweat, you’re burning a whole lot more calories than her.

Now let’s see how we can literally dream our calories away. 

A study recruited 80 people who were overweight and routinely slept less than 6.5 hours a night. Those with sleep disorders like sleep apnea were excluded. For the first two weeks, the researchers gathered baseline data like diet, exercise, body fat composition, etc. Then they divide the group into two. For the next two weeks, the first group was asked to sleep more, and they ended up averaging one extra hour of sleep per night. The second group continued their usual sleep deprivation. There were no changes in their diet and daily activity.

The researchers found that the sleep-in group naturally ate less – an average of 270 kcal – per day compared to the sleep-deprived group. And the more they slept, the less they ate. After two weeks, the sleep-in group lost almost a pound while the sleep-deprived group gained a pound.  

Sleep deprivation is reaching a crisis point. Per CDC data, Ohio is among the worst. In Cuyahoga County, almost 1 in 2 people (45%) are not getting the minimally recommended 7 hours of sleep (the national average is 1 in 3).

If you’re trying to lose a few pounds healthfully, prioritize sleep. Think simply how you could drop 270 kcal either by sleeping an extra hour or by walking an extra hour.

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Volume 15, Issue 7, Posted 8:22 AM, 04.18.2023