Sleep Critical to Weight Loss

by Sean White on Apr 01, 2003

Everyone knows that proper nutrition and consistent exercise are essential for weight loss. However, not everyone realizes how important sleep is as well.

“Sleep loss disrupts a complex and interwoven series of metabolic and hormonal processes and may be a contributing factor to obesity,” said John Winkelman, MD, PhD, medical director of the Sleep Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

According to studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Lancet, not getting enough sleep has been shown to hamper secretion of the hormone cortisol, which regulates appetite. Consequently, individuals who lose sleep may eat enough food yet feel hungry. Sleep loss may also impair the body’s metabolism of carbohydrates, raising one’s blood glucose levels to cause an overproduction of insulin, which can promote the storage of body fat.

Moreover, the quality of sleep is as important to losing weight as the quantity. Indeed, a lack of restorative deep (slow-wave) sleep has been known to contribute to a decrease in the body’s level of growth hormone, which helps regulate the body’s proportions of fat and muscle during adulthood.

Experts recommend that people dedicated to losing weight adjust not only their eating habits but also their sleeping habits. These are some ways to accomplish that:

  • Don't go to bed hungry but don't eat a big meal right before bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly but at least 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening.
  • If you have trouble sleeping at night, don't nap during the day.
  • Practice relaxing presleep rituals, such as soaking in a warm bath or reading for a few minutes.
  • Keep your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible to create a pleasant sleep environment.
  • If, after 30 minutes, you still can't sleep, go to another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.

Those whose sleep trouble lasts longer than a few weeks or interferes with their daily functioning should consult their physicians.

IDEA Personal Trainer, Volume 2004, Issue 4

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About the Author

Sean White IDEA Author/Presenter