You already know that cutting calories and being more active is the path to weight loss. But did you realize getting better sleep is, too?

Several recent studies reveal that the connection between weight and sleep might be much stronger than we ever suspected.

For example, in one study, participants all ate the same low-calorie diet. Some got 5.5 hours of sleep a night while others slept 8.5 hours. Sure enough, the people who got more sleep lost more body fat despite the fact that they ate the exact same number of calories as the group who slept less.

Another study followed over 120 people trying to lose weight over a 17-week period. Again, those who slept 8 hours or more per night also ended up being the ones who lost the most weight.

Other studies have recently linked a lack of sleep to increased appetite and in particular cravings for unhealthy junk food. On average, study participants who did not get enough sleep ate 500 more calories per day than those who were well-rested!

While we still have a lot to learn about how getting sleep can aid weight loss, there’s no reason to wait to take steps to make sure you are getting at least 8 hours of high-quality sleep a night. Doing so will pay off with faster weight loss, more body fat loss, and fewer cravings.

So don’t let poor sleep habits stand in the way of your goals or make losing weight harder than it already is. Make sleep as much of a priority as eating well, being active, and learning new healthier habits.