A woman appears asleep in her bed.
Want to lose weight? Get some sleep. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Connecting sleep to weight loss may feel like a stretch. Come on, you’re just laying there!

Yet research is showing that the weight connection is more than just a dream.

A recent Brigham Young University study found that those with the best sleeping habits had healthier weights, and that wake time was especially linked to body fat. Study participants who woke up at the same time each morning registered lower body fat.

Staying up late and even sleeping in may be doing more harm than good.

“Lack of sleep has a huge effect on weight,” said Jill Graybill, a registered dietitian at Spectrum Health. “Less sleep alters two appetite hormones: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin increases your appetite. Leptin decreases it.”

In studies of people who were sleep deprived, Graybill explained, ghrelin was increased and leptin was decreased. This means they were getting less of the hormone that leads to feeling full and more of the hormone that makes you feel hungry.

Graybill said these hormones can also make us crave high-calorie foods. So that’s why we crave ice cream at night instead of an apple.

The truth is, those cravings are a sign it’s time to go to bed, and your body is looking for energy. So the best way to gain energy at the end of the day isn’t in a Ben & Jerry’s carton, but in a good night’s sleep.

While each person’s sleep needs vary, research shows that seven to nine hours of rest a night is important to support weight loss—and your quality of life.