Working On Your Summer Body? Here’s Why Sleep Is Your Secret Weapon

young athletic couple run together outside on a warm day

It’s starting to heat up, and you know what that means: more time for fun in the sun.

I know this year is different because of the coronavirus situation, but it’s still that point on the calendar where people are looking forward to summer. Whether it’s lounging by the pool, enjoying a day on the lake, or relaxing at the beach — if you can — there’s plenty to look forward to.

And for many of us, May is crunch time. There’s still just enough time to trim an inch or two off the waistline, or maybe get the biceps looking good for our favorite tank top.

One thing remains consistent, though: whatever your ideal “summer body” is, getting great sleep is essential. Sleep helps you cut weight, add muscle, and gives you a natural energy boost, too.

If you’re working hard to get in better shape for summer, don’t skimp on good sleep. Here’s why it can be your secret weapon:

Sleep Helps You Lose Weight

The first thing to know is that sleep can be a big help if you’re looking to trim a few pounds.

That’s because sleep helps the body produce “good” fats that contribute to calorie burning.

I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true, there really are good fats that are useful when it comes to shedding weight. In particular, we’re talking about brown fat and beige fat, two fats that the sleep hormone melatonin helps increase the production of.

Both brown and beige fats come with a number of metabolic benefits.

Research has shown these two “thinning fats” help regulate blood sugar, keep insulin working efficiently, and help safeguard against obesity and high body mass indexes.

Perhaps most importantly, beige fat has also been shown to activate a protein that helps burn calories during the night.

Poor sleep works in the opposite direction by elevating cortisol, the stress hormone that regulates our fight-or-flight response. Over long periods of time, elevated cortisol levels produce glucose, leading to higher blood sugar levels. This ends up compromising sleep’s natural calorie-burning function.

By prioritizing high-quality sleep and sticking to a regular sleep-wake cycle, you help promote the body’s natural production of melatonin — and help yourself cut calories in the process.

A 155-pound adult burns about 50 calories per hour while sleeping, or around 350 to 400 calories for a full night of sleep. That’s equal to about a half hour spent sweating on the stairmaster.

Here’s one more thing to consider: you can accelerate brown and beige fat production by sleeping in cool temperatures.

If you’re not looking to run the AC all spring and summer, you should check out Cool-jams; they’re my moisture-wicking pajamas of choice that help fight off night sweats, leaving me cool, dry and refreshed each morning.

If you or your bed partner “sleeps hot” or you are experiencing symptoms of menopause this summer, you may also want to look at Chilipad, an under the sheet cooling pad that can help you or your bed partner achieve a better sleeping temperature. You also get the benefit of burning a few extra calories if you sleep a little cooler than usual.

Sleep Helps Build Muscle

Sleep does more than help you burn calories. It’s also essential if you’re looking to add a few pounds of muscle before summer, too.

What it comes down to is testosterone, a key hormone that promotes muscle growth and strength development. Testosterone and sleep are interconnected; the longer you stay awake, your testosterone levels begin to dip. On the other hand, the more you sleep, the more your testosterone levels increase. Testosterone production mostly occurs during REM sleep, the period late in the sleep cycle that helps replenish the body and mind.

But it doesn’t take long for poor sleep to undermine your muscle-building training. Research has shown that after 8 days of sleeping 5 and a half hours or less each night, testosterone levels fall between 10-15% on average. The lack of deep, restorative sleep makes it harder to build muscle.

At the same time, non-REM sleep plays an important role when it comes to muscle repair. During non-REM sleep, the pituitary gland releases human growth hormone, or HGH, which contributes to improved muscle mass and muscle recovery. This growth hormone spike occurs about 1-2 hours into sleep. Conversely, poor sleep has been connected to sharp declines in HGH secretion, eating away at whatever gains you’ve made from pumping iron.

Making sure you’re in bed early is a great way to lock in the muscle-boosting benefits of great sleep, but getting to sleep early isn’t for everyone. The best time to sleep depends on your chronotype; even small adjustments to your bedtime can have a big impact on your effort to cut calories or build muscle. If you don’t know your chronotype, no big deal — just take my simple quiz at

Sleep Boosts Your Energy Levels

Lastly, it’s important to remember the basics: sleep is nature’s Red Bull. A full night of sleep leaves you with a full tank of energy and lays down the foundation for tackling your daily exercise head-on.

There’s a biological explanation for this. Small cellular structures called mitochondria produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the molecule our bodies associate with energy. ATP stores our energy and selectively delivers it to cells throughout the body. This process, however, is diminished by two things: poor sleep and old age. Our bodies simply have less mitochondria as we get older, and that cuts into our ATP reserves. ATP production is also hampered by poor sleep.

Getting good sleep helps replenish our ATP levels, though. This typically occurs in the early, non-REM sleep hours, where research has shown ATP levels spike. (“Sleep is for an energy surge,” as one study summarized it.) To have the necessary energy to exercise day-in, day-out and get ready for summer, sleep is a necessity. I also double down by mixing in Jigsaw Magnesium tablets, which both relieves stiff muscles and provides a natural energy lift.

The evidence is clear: sleep helps you trim fat, gain muscle and have the energy to do both. If you’re working on getting in shape for summer, great sleep has to be part of your game plan.