Sleep more, weigh less

Overweight adults can lose weight by getting more sleep—even if they don’t make changes to their diet or level of physical activity. That’s the finding of a small new study of 80 overweight adults conducted by the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study found that participants who upped their sleep from less than 6.5 hours to 8.5 hours a night reduced the average number of calories they consumed in a day by 270 calories (some cut their intake by as much as 500 calories a day). 

This translates to a whopping 26 pounds of weight loss over three years.

It’s “a game changer in our efforts to tackle the obesity epidemic,” says the study’s author, Dr. Esra Tasali, director of the Sleep Research Center at the University of Chicago.

How does adding a couple of hours of extra zzz’s help people lose weight? Sleep deprivation impacts two key hormones that affect appetite. Ghrelin stimulates hunger and increases with sleep deprivation whereas leptin sends a signal when we feel full and decreases with sleep deprivation. Another issue is that insulin resistance increases with a lack of sleep, and this can lead to weight gain. 

About one-third of North American adults are not getting the seven to nine hours of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. 

Looking for ways to boost your shut-eye? Try these 10 tips:

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine before bed.
  • Put away any devices (including cell phones, laptops and TV screens) 45 minutes before bedtime. The blue light emitted from these devices disrupts the natural sleep/wake cycle. 
  • Maintain a regular bedtime/wake time.
  • Practice relaxation and mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques.
  • Reduce noise in your sleeping environment.
  • Keep a cozy bed: A good mattress, comfy pillows and bed linens can help promote good sleep.
  • Sleep in a dark cool bedroom (15-20 degrees Celsius).
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid long naps: Keep midday shut-eye to no more than 20 minutes.
  • Have a soothing bedtime ritual, such as taking a bath, listening to soothing music, meditating or reading.