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Sleep More to Lose Weight

By Britney Blair, PsyD., CBSM

Sleep More to Lose Weight

You probably already know about the importance of sleep for overall health and wellbeing. Healthy sleep can give you the energy and mental clarity you need to make it through your busy day. However, did you know that healthy sleep could also be the key to helping you lose weight?

We live in crazy busy times. It seems the technology designed to make us more efficient has allowed us to continue our work life after hours and jam more play dates into our over-packed schedules. We attempt to keep up with family, work, home, friends and our health. Polls show we’re also spending more time than ever trying to improve our appearance, lose weight and prioritize our health. Something’s gotta give—and unfortunately, for man, trying to squeeze a few extra hours out of the day comes at the cost of shorter nights and less sleep.

Lose Weight: Don’t Sacrifice Your Sleep

Sleep is crucial for memory and learning, immune system functioning, emotion regulation, heart health, muscle repair and growth, healthy aging and regulating hunger. Mental and physical performance is directly and dramatically impacted by poor sleep. Scientists are discovering new evidence of the incredible power of sleep every day.

Healthy sleep is important for healthy weight loss. There are two important hormones that regulate our appetite, which may be the most significant factor in weight gain or loss. Ghrelin is our “hunger hormone,” that regulates our appetite and energy distribution.  Leptin is our satiety hormone; it signals when we’re full and have eaten all we need.

Not getting enough sleep, or poor quality sleep, revs your appetite by boosting ghrelin and lowering leptin. You wake up feeling hungrier after a rough night’s sleep and your body isn’t able to send you the property hunger/satiety signals:

Short sleep = HIGHER ghrelin + LOWER leptin à eat more à weight GAIN

Long sleep = LOWER ghrelin + HIGHER leptin à eat less àweight LOSS/STABILITY

Improve Your Sleep Quality

Protect and promote your own sleep with these 5 proven healthy sleep habits:

  1. Maintain a stable sleep schedule: Get up at the same time each morning.
  2. Avoid caffeine after lunchtime: This means foods or drinks that contain caffeine.
  3. Break before sleep: Try to insert up to an hour’s break between your busy day and your time to sleep for at least 30-60 minutes.
  4. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary: Ideally it is cool, dark, safe and quiet.
  5. Confine exercise to earlier in the day: Exercise is great for sleep (and weight loss) but try not to exercise within a few hours of bedtime.

How Much Sleep Do I Need?

We spend nearly a third of our lives asleep. How much sleep we need is fairly stable across our adult lifespan. Adults generally need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night; some may need slightly less and others slightly more.

Dr. Britney Blair is a licensed clinical psychologist, is board certified in behavioral sleep medicine, and is adjunct faculty at The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine.


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