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Can’t Lose Weight on Semaglutide? Poor Sleep May Be Sabotaging Your Efforts — Here’s What Can Help

Experts share four tips for deep, sound sleep that helps ward off diet-derailing hunger pangs


As much as we’d love a quick fix for weight loss, in reality, it’s not that simple. Even for those taking semaglutide (GLP-1) medications like Ozempic and Wegovy to shed unwanted pounds, success is contingent upon eating nutritious meals, staying active and clocking enough sleep. That’s right — experts say consistently getting quality rest can increase your chance of reaping weight-loss rewards while taking semaglutide. 

“Amidst all the excitement about their effectiveness, an important aspect of GLP-1 medications is widely overlooked,” says Jessica Friedeman, Chief Marketing Officer of healthcare provider LifeMD. “The research behind these drugs really categorizes them as an adjunct therapy rather than a standalone treatment. That means they’re intended to be used as an addition to, not instead of, regular exercise, a balanced diet and other tried and true components of healthy living.” 

That’s not to say that GLP-1 medications are ineffective when taken alone, Friedeman notes. But caring for your entire well-being (including clocking enough Zzzs) maximizes effectiveness of the meds and helps sustain long-term benefits. Here’s how to get the perks.

How sleep affects your eating habits

Sleep and nutrition are linked, and people tend to make less thoughtful food choices when sleep is restricted, confirms Theresa Vergara, CNP. That includes reaching for snacks and foods that are processed, high in fat and packed with refined carbohydrates — all foods associated with weight gain.

And in a vicious cycle, eating less nutritious food can lead to poor sleep. Vergara participated in a research study that analyzed the brain functions of sleep-deprived participants when shown photos of rich, sweet foods. She notes that “certain centers of the brain that are involved in the reward processing centers light up when people who are sleep-restricted see these foods.”

Related: What to Eat on Ozempic for Weight Loss: Expert Advice

The relationship between sleep, hormones and weight 

Sleep (or lack thereof) also impacts your body’s appetite regulation hormones. Ghrelin and leptin, for example, work together to manage hunger and satiety levels, Vergara explains. Without enough sleep, your levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin increase and your levels of the “satiety hormone” leptin decrease, triggering the urge to eat.

A similar process happens when people use weight loss meds like Wegovy or Ozempic (a diabetes medication used off-label for weight loss). “Studies have shown that reduced sleep is associated with a decreased GLP-1 level in the blood, especially in the afternoon, and poor fullness scores,” says Vergara. “In general, short sleep and poor sleep can lead to eating more as well as overeating when you do sit down to eat.”

How much sleep do you need while taking a semaglutide?

Mature Black woman sleeping in bed after taking semaglutide
FG Trade

If sound rest is a necessity for weight loss, especially if you’re taking semaglutide, how much sleep do you actually need? While the exact amount can vary from person to person, anything less than seven hours increases the risk of weight gain and cardio-metabolic dysfunctions, Vergara says. And quality is just as important as quantity, she adds. Someone suffering from sleep apnea might be sleeping for eight to nine hours, but never reaching deep, slow-wave sleep. 

In cases of severe short sleep, such as a few nights of only getting four hours, you can start experiencing the effects in as little as three to five days. That includes impacts on your neurological processes, hormones and food choices, even while taking semaglutide, cautions Vergara. Actual weight gain will take a bit longer, and can start to become evident within about a month. 

Can you catch up on missed sleep?

In short, yes, you can (and should) make up for lost sleep when you’re able, Vergara says. However, you don’t want to get into the habit of chasing sleep debt and fall into a routine of “social jet lag” where your entire routine shifts due to your playing sleep catch-up, she notes. At this point, you likely won’t see the benefits of getting back missed sleep. 

How to get enough sleep while on semaglutide

Sure, being active, eating healthy and limiting use of screens are helpful for improving sleep length and quality when you’re taking semaglutide. Here are some other lesser-known tips from experts for how to sleep better and maximize weight loss.

1. Get plenty of sunlight

Bright light exposure during the day offers a clear signal to your body’s circadian rhythm (internal clock) that it’s time to be energetic and alert. And this helps keep your sleep-wake cycle on track, says Chelsea Perry, DMD, owner of Sleep Solutions and a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. Plus, she says, ample exposure to light during the day sharpens the contrast come nightfall. That prompts your body to produce the sleep hormone melatonin.

Mature woman outside smiling after a good night's sleep

Related: 6 Science-Backed Ways to Get Deeper Sleep — And They Can Start Working Tonight

2. Dim the lights

Start dimming the lights in your house a couple of hours before you go to bed, Dr. Perry suggests. “When you lower the lights in the evening, it sends a signal to your body that it’s time to start relaxing and preparing for sleep,” she explains. “In dimmer lighting, your body begins to produce melatonin, which makes you feel sleepier. It’s like telling your internal clock, ‘Okay, the day is winding down,’ which helps you transition smoothly into a good night’s sleep. By the time you actually hit the pillow, you’re already halfway to dreamland, making it easier to fall asleep and enjoy a deeper, more restful night.”

3. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) 

Dr. Perry says PMR is essentially a two-part training session to help you manage stress and feel the difference between being tense and fully relaxed. The first step, she says, is to intentionally tighten up certain muscle groups while paying attention to what that tension feels like in your body. Then, let that tension go with a steady release and hone in on the feeling of your muscles relaxing. 

“It’s kind of like watching stress flow right out of you,” says Dr. Perry. “As you practice this, moving from one muscle group to another, you get really good at spotting the difference between tension and relaxation. It’s a simple way to help your body recognize when it’s time to cool down.”

Check out the video below for a quick how-to:

4. Keep your room cool 

You want to feel comfy and cozy when you snuggle up in bed, but your room itself should actually be quite cool. A recent study found that even small changes in temperature disturbed sleep cycles, notes Kevin Huffman, DO, CEO and Founder of Ambari Nutrition. 

“Keep your bedroom cool [60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, or 15.5-19.4 degrees Celsius], and invest in sheets and blankets made with natural, breathable materials like cotton or linen,” advises Dr. Huffman.

Related: 11 Best Cooling PJs for Women Over 50, Plus Other Cooling Sleep Extras

Learn more about the benefits (and possible) drawbacks of semaglutide:

This Is Why You’re Not Losing Weight on Semaglutide + Doctors’ Tips to Speed Results

Could Ozempic and Other Weight Loss Drugs Reduce Bone Density? New Study Shows What Can Help

Your Guide to Ozempic and the New Weight-Loss Drugs: Top Experts + Real Women Tell All

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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