Trying to Lose Weight? Sleep In!
There seem to be as many “secrets” to weight loss—and keeping those pounds off—as there are people spreading them, so it’s always important to filter the facts from the fantasy. But in the face of an endless array of diets, workouts, medical procedures, and tips, it might surprise some that a potential key to shedding excess pounds essentially involves doing less, not more. As noted in a recent issue of Men’s Fitness, a growing body of research is finding that getting enough sleep can really help with weight loss and regulation.  Yes, it’s true: good sleep helps with weight loss.
What’s considered “enough sleep?” According to the latest guidelines from The National Sleep Foundation, adults need between seven and nine hours a night, with slightly more for teenagers, and significantly larger amounts for younger children.  And here’s the thing: According to Gallup polls, American adults aren’t getting the sleep they need, averaging only 6.8 hours per night overall.  Notably, about 40% get only six hours or less, so this issue has a pretty large impact.
Sleep, Genes and BMI
So, what’s happening here exactly? How can getting enough sleep help with weight? As Dr. Nathaniel Watson, lead author of a study that noted this connection told USA Today, “The less sleep you get, the more your genes contribute to how much you weigh. The more sleep you get, the less your genes determine how much you weigh.”  The propensity to gain and keep on weight, then, is higher in those that get less than seven hours on a biochemical level.
This finding was based on an assessment of body mass index (BMI), a common measure of amount of fat as a percentage of body weight, and height, in 604 pairs of identical twins and 484 sets of fraternal ones. Focusing on this population allowed Dr. Watson’s team to isolate genetic factors for BMI based on hours of rest per night. Among those who were able to get more than enough sleep—over nine hours—genetic factors accounted for 32% of weight variation, but this number skyrocketed to 70% when looking at those who got less. 
What’s happening? While more work is needed to figure this out more exactly, Dr. Watson and his colleagues theorize that some of the genetic pathways regulating sleep are also involved in feelings of hunger, satiety, metabolism and storage of fat. Further, previous work had shown that sleep deprivation increases expression of hunger hormones, which can contribute to overeating and weight gain. 
Getting the Rest to be Your Best
Of course, between familial commitments, work, and recreation, getting enough sleep can be a real challenge. Many daily habits and patterns can lead to insomnia or difficulty getting the necessary hours.
So what can you do to get the rest you need? Here are a couple tips: 
- Unplug: The proliferation of screens and technology in our lives stimulates and excites our minds, making it more difficult to fall asleep. This is why doctors recommend you shut off and avoid all screens—TVs, computers, iPads, phones—for at least an hour before you hit the hay.
- Designate a Rest Zone: Don’t work in bed and try not watch TV there, tempting as that may be. Limit this part of the home to sleep and true relaxation.
- Stick to Strict Schedules: People who get the best quality sleep do so when they stick to a regular schedule; try to give yourself a bedtime and specific time to get up every day.
- Watch Your Diet: Steer clear of alcohol or heavy meals close to bedtime, as these can disrupt good sleep. Caffeinated beverages should also be avoided after 2 PM.
- Set a Rest Ritual: A good way to program yourself to get enough rest is to establish a specific ritual or set of things you do before going to bed. Let go of major concerns or areas of stress; try instead to read a book, take a relaxing bath, or meditate.
Good Sleep Is an Essential Part of a Weight Loss Program
Simply sleeping enough, on its own, won’t automatically take care of excess weight, but it does prime your body for it and helps prevent unwanted gains. As part of an overall program of diet, exercise, and maintenance, it seems a couple extra Zs can make a big difference. Now that’s some weight loss news you can snuggle up with.
If you’re struggling with your weight goals, talk to a Patient Care Manager at Evolve Weight Loss. The experts here are committed to figuring out workable solution, with an eye towards overall health. Learn more by calling (888) 575-4526 today!
1. Radcliffe, S. (2017). Lose Weight By Sleeping More. [online] Men’s Fitness. Available at: http://www.mensfitness.com/weight-loss/burn-fat-fast/lose-weight-sleeping-more [Accessed 22 May 2017].
2. “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”. 2017. Sleepfoundation.Org. Accessed May 22 2017. https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need-0.
3. Jones, J. (2013). In U.S., 40% Get Less Than Recommended Amount of Sleep. [online] Gallup.com. Available at: http://www.gallup.com/poll/166553/less-recommended-amount-sleep.aspx [Accessed 22 May 2017].
4. Hellmich, N. (2012). Sleep lessens the effect genes have on weight. [online] USATODAY.COM. Available at: https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-05-01/sleep-weight-obesity/54647854/1?csp=34news#mainstory [Accessed 22 May 2017].
5. WebMD. (2017). Does Sleep Affect Weight Loss?. [online] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/diet/sleep-and-weight-loss#1 [Accessed 22 May 2017].