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Change Your Sleep Schedule and Lose Weight

Change Your Sleep Schedule and Lose Weight
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By Hilary Young

We’ve all been there. Struggling to lose weight and seeming to get nowhere, even after making changes to our diet and exercise routines. Studies now suggest that in order to achieve weight loss goals, you might also have to adjust your sleep schedule. According to a recent Gallup poll, the majority of Americans sleep for an average of 6 hours or less each night.

This is disturbing considering the results of a new study from researchers with Columbia University and the University of North Carolina found that lack of sleep has direct correlation to obesity. The study specifically focused on adolescents and showed that those teens who slept less than 6 hours a night were 20 percent more likely to be obese by age 21, compared to peers who slept for 8 hours each night.

In late 2013, researchers from Brigham Young University studied the sleep habits of over 300 women over the course of several weeks and found that those with the best sleep routines also had the healthiest weights. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, discovered the following:

  • Consistent bed time and wake time are related to lower body fat
  • Sleeping for less than 6.5 hours or more than 8.5 hours each night is related to higher body fat
  • The quality of your sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy body composition

Bruce Bailey, Exercise Science Professor and lead researcher on the BYU study, chalks it up to the human body needing a specific routine and pattern of behavior for optimal function. “We have these internal clocks and throwing them off and not allowing them to get into a pattern does have an impact on our physiology,” said Bailey.

Changing your sleep schedule might also be changing what types of food you are reaching for when you are hungry. Sleep researchers from the University of Colorado performed a two-week experiment that tracked the sleep, metabolism and eating habits of 16 otherwise healthy men and women. While the results showed that sleep deprivation actually increased their metabolisms, it also caused the participants to eat more. By the end of the study, they found that sleep-deprived people end up consuming 6 percent more daily calories and had gained about two pounds each.

“We found that when people weren’t getting enough sleep they overate carbohydrates,” said Kenneth Wrightdirector, a researcher with the University of Colorado’s Sleep and Chronology Laboratory. “They ate more food, and when they ate food also changed. They ate a smaller breakfast and they ate a lot more after dinner.”

All of these studies suggest that sleep and diet are both essential to maintaining a healthy weight. Without committing to a steady pattern of behavior when it comes to sleep, diet and exercise, the body is prone to weight gain. So what can you do to ensure that you’ll be able to stick to a slim-down plan?

Get between 7-8 hours of sleep every night. 7-8 hours seem to be the magic number for optimal brain and metabolism function. Anything less than 7 or more than 8, you’re putting yourself at risk for a variety of complications, potentially including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Maintain a balanced diet. While sweets and fatty foods can be tempting, it’s important to practice moderation with these empty calories. Instead, focus on eating energy-boosting foods packed with nutrients. This includes whole grains, greens, fruits and plenty of water!

Commit to a regular exercise routine. It’s not easy to follow a perfect diet and sleep routine. We all know that life can get in the way of that from time to time. But if you can find time to exercise—even if it comes in the form of a long walk—you’ll be able to counteract the negative effects of slipping on sleep and cheating on your diet. Not to mention the overall health effects of exercise: cardiovascular health, better brain function, and more energy.



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