To Lose LB's Get Your ZZZ's

Most of my patients are not surprised to hear how beneficial getting enough sleep is for their overall health, but many who are trying to lose weight are surprised to learn what an important impact it has on their weight.  Most weight-loss diets and exercise plans won't work well if you're sleep deprived according to sleep specialist and clinical psychologist Michael Breus, who was interviewed for a recent article on mind-body health in Success magazine.

Even if you exercise religiously and eat well, you may still struggle to lose weight if you are sleep deprived.  Researchers found that depriving healthy men of sleep led to increases in the hormone grehlin (not to be confused with... but actually similar to in a weird way...gremlin), which increases hunger, and decreases in the hormone leptin, which decreases hunger and signals satiety.  This led to increases in their cravings and hunger for calorie-dense, high-carbohydrate foods.  Definitely not good for the waistline.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

It's actually pretty rare that people need 8 hours of sleep according to Breus.  A better number is 7.5 hours because it provides five full sleep cycles of 1.5 hours each.  Everyone is different though - some people may actually feel best after 6 hours and for others it may be 9.  Listen to your body by taking note of how you feel depending on how many hours you sleep you get.  Whatever your individual needs, not getting enough sleep slows down your metabolism.

Tips For A Good Night's Sleep

  • Your pillow turns out to be a critical factor in how well you sleep, so one of the easiest things you can do is get a new pillow, which should be replaced every 18 months (some need replacement every year), Breus says.  If you sleep on your side, choose a pillow that’s thicker.  If you sleep on your back, get a thinner pillow.

  • Try counting backward from 300 by threes. “It sounds crazy but it works,” Breus says. “You can’t think of anything else, but it’s so doggone boring, so you’re out like a light.”

  • Switch to decaf drinks by 2 p.m. Caffeine can stay in your system up to 12 hours.

  • Avoid alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime.

  • Complete any aerobic exercise at least 3 hours prior to bedtime.

  • It may sound a little odd, but try setting an alarm clock to ring for bedtime, Breus says.  If you must awake at 6:00 a.m., count back eight hours and set an alarm for 10:00 p.m.  That allows you time to get ready for bed and still get 7.5 hours of sleep.  Otherwise, people tend to get on the computer at night or watch TV, then look up at the clock and see it’s late. “They don’t know where those hours went,” Breus says.

If you have been struggling to lose weight even though you feel you are doing all the right things in terms of nutrition and exercise, I encourage you to consider sleep deprivation as a potential cause and work on getting some more sack time.

Now I'd like to hear from you:

Do you struggle with getting enough sleep?

Have you had success using any of the tips above?

Do you think sleep deprivation could be hampering your weight loss efforts?