This Insomnia Drug Could Burn Fat While You Sleep, Research Shows

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woman taking insomnia drug

We’ve been hearing a lot about weight loss medications like Ozempic and Zepbound recently, but turns out there’s a type of insomnia drug that might also burn fat and promote weight loss, recent research suggests.

A Japanese study recently explored the potential effect of the insomnia drug suvorexant (known as Belsomra) on fat burning. 

Researchers found that the insomnia drug increased rates of fat burning during sleep and the following morning. (1)

But what does all this mean for the possible relationship between sleep medication and weight loss?

Let’s take a closer look at the study.

Can an Insomnia Drug Really Help You Lose Weight?

The study was conducted by the University of Tsukuba in Japan and recently published in iScience. Fourteen men participated in the study by taking suvorexant or a placebo drug while researchers observed their rate of fat burning and other sleep patterns.

As a result, researchers discovered that those who took suvorexant saw an increase in sleep time spent in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep and an increase in fat burning as their metabolism worked faster. (1)

I know what you’re thinking, how can an insomnia drug also burn fat? It all comes down to what’s in the drug.

How Does Suvorexant Work?

Suvorexant is a drug that’s used to treat insomnia by blocking signals to your brain that tell you to stay awake, which helps those with insomnia fall asleep faster. (2)

While the drug is intended to treat insomnia, other components of the drug might also help the body burn fat at a faster rate. 

Suvorexant is an orexin, which is a type of drug that helps control our sleep-wake cycle and our energy metabolism. (1)

The drug’s connection to our body’s metabolism functions (how we break down food and fat) is what researchers believe might help explain why those who took the drug experienced higher rates of burning fat. 

This is because our metabolism levels also impact how we lose or gain weight by burning or gaining fat. 

While the study’s findings are interesting, there’s still much more research to be done about the potential relationship between insomnia drugs and weight loss.

More Research Needed for this Hypothesis…

Like most new findings in the health space, more research is needed to discover if the study’s findings can be applied to a broader audience. 

The study only included 14 young men, so researchers admit that more research needs to be done to determine if the results could also affect women and men of different ages. 

While the potential relationship between insomnia drugs and fat burning is still under review, here’s what we do know so far about the connection between sleep and weight loss.

How Does Sleep Impact Weight Loss?

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times before, but many key factors of our health are influenced by getting a good night’s sleep, including weight loss.

“Sleep is the bedrock upon which everything else is really built – want to lose weight? Sleep better first to help make that easier,” says Dr. Shelby Harris, Sleepopolis’s Director of Sleep Health.

One 2022 study found that those who got better sleep and slept for a longer duration of time also lost more weight, even when accounting for differences in diet and exercise. (3)

Another study found that sleeping for less than 7 hours a night caused participants to be at higher risk of obesity. (4)

This is because the quality of sleep can influence what type of food we crave, how much we want to eat each day, and how much energy we have to be active.  

“Sleep may be a key component of weight loss. It can influence hunger and satiety, energy production, and motivation for physical activity,” according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA).  

All in all, there’s a lot of research to support that sleep quality also impacts how we gain or lose weight, amongst other factors of course. 

Considering all we know about sleep and weight loss, it might not come as a surprise that insomnia drugs that help us sleep better might also be connected to fat burning. 

Sources
  • 1. Park I, Yoshitake R, Kazuki Kioka, et al. Orexin receptor antagonist increases fat oxidation and suppresses protein catabolism during sleep in humans. iScience. 2024;27(7):110212-110212. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2024.110212

  • 2. Bennett T, Bray D, Neville MW. Suvorexant, a Dual Orexin Receptor Antagonist for the Management of Insomnia. Pharmacy and Therapeutics. 2014;39(4):264-266. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3989084/

  • 3. Papatriantafyllou E, Efthymiou D, Zoumbaneas E, Popescu CA, Vassilopoulou E. Sleep Deprivation: Effects on Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Nutrients. 2022;14(8):1549. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14081549

  • 4. Cooper CB, Neufeld EV, Dolezal BA, Martin JL. Sleep deprivation and obesity in adults: A brief narrative review. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine. 2018;4(1):e000392. doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000392

Emma Ernst

Emma Ernst

Emma Ernst is an editorial intern at Sleepopolis. A rising senior at the University of South Carolina, studying public relations and Spanish, Emma is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and loves to talk about anything Midwestern!

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