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  • Writer's pictureLisa Magnuson

Wellness Challenge #21- Step 3 towards building your Fat Loss Foundation!


Over the last two weeks we have focused on the two “W’s” of our WWS (Walking, Water, and Sleep) and this week we take a deeper look into the “S” for sleep.  These three components are the foundation for weight management and fat loss.  They provide the needed pillars for your body’s ability to rejuvenate.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is essential to health and survival. Even if you don’t eat very well, you can still expect to live around 75 years. But if you don’t sleep, you’ll likely check out in a couple of weeks — the Guinness World Record for sleep deprivation is 11 days. (For more reading on this, check out Scientific AmericanHow Long Can Humans Stay Awake?)

Sleep quantity and sleep quality are essential to health and survival. The average adult in the United States gets about 7 hours of sleep per night while 38% of the population gets fewer than 6.5 hours each night.

Studies suggest that people who sleep fewer than 7 hours per night gain almost twice as much weight over a 6-year period as people who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. And excessive sleep isn’t necessarily better: Those who sleep more than 9 hours per night have similar body composition outcomes as those who sleep less than 6 hours.

A 2005 study, with a nationally representative sample of about 10,000 adults, suggested that the United States obesity epidemic might, in part, be caused by a corresponding decrease in the average number of sleep hours.  This study found that people between the ages of 32 and 49 who sleep fewer than 7 hours each night are significantly more likely to be obese.  Also, staying awake beyond midnight seemed to increase the likelihood of obesity.  These associations have a “dose-response” relationship, with later bedtimes and shorter sleeping hours resulting in greater levels of body fat gain.  Wake-up time was not significantly related to obesity.  Similarly, a study that followed the growth of more than 9,000 children from birth onwards showed that children who slept the least when they were 30 months old were more likely to be obese at age 7 than children who slept more.

It’s not clear yet whether poor sleep is a cause or a result of excess body fat (or both). Some scientists speculate that sleep deprivation could disrupt the hormones that regulate appetite, which results in body fat accumulation.  Other scientists believe that the physical discomfort of obesity and sleep apnea reduce the chances of getting a good night’s sleep.

Sleep quality doesn’t just affect body fat. Studies also show that getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep each night means that you’re at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, and sudden cardiac death. In principle, lack of sleep affects all daily life functions: Mood, cognition, memory, athletic performance, and ability to lose weight.

Further studies show that going 24 hours without sleep is similar to performing with a blood alcohol level of 0.10%. Ever tried working out while drunk? 3 I don’t want to know the answer to that.

Why do we sleep less?

Although many of us may feel that work demands a lot of our attention or that we can’t get our brains to shut off, the real reason for lack of sleep is rarely long work hours or physiologic abnormalities; rather, most people lose sleep due to voluntary bedtime delay.  We cut back on sleep because we choose to.  We watch TV.  We browse the internet.  We go out with friends.  This voluntary bedtime delay is something found only in modern society.  The average American slept nearly 9 hours each night a century ago.  If we were to remove forms of artificial stimulation and excessive work/life demands, humans would likely sleep for about 8 hours per night, based on the natural sleep/wake cycle of the brain.

“Sleep loss due to voluntary bedtime curtailment has become a hallmark of modern society… Chronic sleep loss, [whether] behavioral or sleep disorder related, may represent a novel risk factor for weight gain, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes.” — Spiegel, K.

In Summary

A multitude of factors contribute to a successful weight loss plan and one’s ability to lose fat.  While nutrition is a big component of fat loss that also needs to be also addressed, the fundamental habits of WWS (Walk, Water, Sleep) and the Triple Seven Rule (7000 steps, 7 glasses of water, and 7 hours of sleep) are vital blocks. This allows us to create a solid foundation that enables you to implement nutritional programming later, while losing weight in the interim and creating a platform of long-term habit-driven success. By focusing on these daily habits, in conjunction with sound nutrition and exercise program you will be well on your way in achieving a pain-free athletic lifestyle.

Sources & References

1. The 3 R’s of Habit Change: How To Start New Habits That Actually Stick. James Clear. Published February 14, 2013. Accessed January 9, 2019.

2. Cox D. Watch your step: why the 10,000 daily goal is built on bad science. The Guardian. Published September 3, 2018. Accessed January 9, 2019.

3. All About Sleep | Precision Nutrition. Precision Nutrition. Published March 9, 2009. Accessed January 9, 2019.

4. 1 in 3 Adults Don’t Get Enough Sleep:  A good night sleep is critical for good health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published February 18, 2016.

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