Weight cycling is characterized by bouts of weight loss and weight gain–often more weight than what was initially lost. Women are more likely to experience weight cycling, and it is sometimes a consequence of rapid weight loss and “reset diets”. Though the impact of weight cycling is a bit more clear in terms of cardiovascular and mental health, a study recently published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing found that women who have had a history of at least one episode of weight cycling suffer from sleep disturbances (Murphy, 2021).

Researchers at Columbia University used the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Strategically Focused Research Network cohort to examine associations between a history of weight cycling and sleep at baseline and prospective associations of a history of weight cycling and sleep from baseline at a 1-year follow-up visit in 506 women (mean age = 37 +/- 15 years). Weight cycling was defined as at least one episode of losing and gaining 10 lbs or more, with the exception of pregnancy. Medical questionnaires were used to assess sleep duration, sleep quality, insomnia severity, and obstructive sleep apnea. Results indicated that most women (72%) reported at least one or more episodes of weight cycling. Data showed that a history of weight cycling was associated with increased odds for short sleep, poor sleep quality, longer onset of falling asleep (26 minutes or more), high risk for obstructive sleep apnea, and diminished sleep efficiency (less than 86%). Each additional weight cycling episode was associated with shorter sleep duration, poorer sleep quality, longer onset of sleep, more severe insomnia, more sleep disturbances, lower sleep efficiency, and more frequent use of sleep aid medication (Cao et al., 2021).


Why would this be a concern for cardiovascular health? Weight cycling is a cardiovascular risk factor, along with smoking, diet, physical inactivity, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Researchers predict that every time weight is lost, it is a combination of fat and lean muscle tissue. When weight is regained, it is often mostly fat, particularly abdominal fat that is most concerning for cardiovascular health. Researchers also add that any of the cardiovascular risk factors can have a detrimental effect on sleep. In addition, rapid weight loss can slow metabolism, which can lead to hormone imbalances that can negatively impact sleep (Millard, 2021).

The underlying emphasis is in the importance of slow and steady weight loss, rather than a quick fix diet or pill. This is what UFit is all about–healthy, sustainable nutrition choices and individualized exercise programming with regressions and progressions. These two together are the foundation for weight loss that lasts and for developing healthy habits that last a lifetime. More and more research is showing how all of the systems of the body are related. This is why the basic needs of the body—a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep—are so important.


The UFit Team