We all try to keep our weight under control as we get older. After all, research links excess weight gain to many health problems, including dementia.
Well, a brand-new study shows that one effortless (and immensely enjoyable) habit can help you burn more calories and lose almost 10 pounds (lbs) per year. No dieting or exercise required!
Here’s everything you need to know…
Surprisingly simple key to weight management
Researchers at the University of Chicago recruited 80 overweight people between the ages of 21 and 40 years who got less than 6.5 hours of sleep nightly.
To capture baseline data, participants continued their normal sleep patterns at home and wore a smart watch that tracked their nightly sleep for the first two weeks of the study.
Then, at the start of week three, the researchers asked half the people to continue with their regular routine of getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep per night.
The other half received sleep counselling aimed to extend their sleep duration to 8.5 hours per night.
Researchers also took urine samples to determine the participants’ daily caloric intake at baseline and throughout the study. (As explained on Tuesday, this kind of regular biomarker analysis is a far more accurate way to assess dietary intake compared to food surveys.)
Well, it turns out, on average, the group that received sleep counseling got 1.2 more hours of sleep each night during the second part of the study. Plus, they cut their daily caloric intake by 270 calories compared to the short sleep group (fewer than 6.5 hours per night).
The researchers said this caloric deficit would lead people to lose the equivalent of between 8 and 9 lbs per year and 26 pounds over three years, if they sustained the same habits.
All by just sleeping a little longer each night!
Previous research suggests that sleep deprivation can cause changes in the brain related to pleasure-seeking behavior. It also triggers a hormone called ghrelin, which induces hunger. In contrast, getting enough sleep activates a hormone called leptin, which tells the body it feels “full.”
Indeed, my mother and grandmother often repeated an old French proverb, Qi dort, dîne, which essentially means sleep allows one to go without food. And study co-author Esra Tasali, M.D. of the University of Chicago, went one step further, stating, “Adequate sleep duration could be a game-changer in our battle with the obesity epidemic as a society.”
Seven tricks to extend your sleep (and even lose weight!)
Here are some helpful tricks to try, if you want to enjoy more sleep each night. As a result, you may even lose a few pounds!
1.) Set the mood for sleep. Turn off all electronic screens—including the television, computer, phone, and reading devices. The blue light emitted from these devices impairs the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
2.) Be mindful about your exercise regimen. Strenuous exercise (or “excess-ercise,” as I call it) puts your body on “high alert” by increasing blood flow, body temperature, and mental sharpness. In effect, it keeps your “engine running” for up to six hours and can interfere with your sleep. Instead, engage in your light-to-moderate exercise routine well before bedtime.
3.) Avoid napping or “sleeping in” if you have insomnia. Research shows you may want to reconsider napping and “sleeping in” on weekends. For one, napping (even a short one) may disrupt the quality and quantity of your nighttime sleep.
In addition, if you lose sleep during the week, you can’t just make up for it on weekends. In fact, “sleeping in” one or two days on the weekend upsets your natural body clock. And these disruptions make it harder to get your sleep back on a regular cycle.
4.) Practice some mind-body approaches during the day. Relaxation and stress-reduction approaches like meditation and yoga during the day can help you fall asleep at night.
To find the right mind-body techniques that will work for you, take my free quiz. You can also check out my book Overcoming Acute and Chronic Pain: Keys to Treatment Based on Your Emotional Type.
6.) Try aromatherapy. Science shows many people experience significant improvements in sleep and relaxation by inhaling essential plant oils through aromatherapy. You can apply these essential oils to your skin and/or diffuse them.
The most effective sleep-inducing essential oils are: chamomile, eucalyptus, lavender, limonene, orange, and peppermint.
7.) Try ashwagandha. This powerful botanical remedy works as an “adaptogen” and comes from traditional Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine. Plus, recent research shows, in just 10 weeks, it can improve:
- Sleep onset latency (time it takes for you to fall asleep)
- Sleep efficiency (total percentage of time spent asleep while in bed)
- Overall sleep quality
I recommend taking 400 to 500 mg of ashwagandha per day.
Lastly, check out the March 2021 issue of Insiders’ Cures, my monthly newsletter, for my ultimate guide to getting good sleep (“My ultimate guide to getting a good night’s rest— naturally”). If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, now is the perfect time to become one!
“Effect of Sleep Extension on Objectively Assessed Energy Intake Among Adults With Overweight in Real-life Settings: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA Intern Med. 2022;182(4):365–374. doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.8098
“More Sleep, Fewer Calories Consumed.” MedPage Today, 2/7/22. (medpagetoday.com/neurology/sleepdisorders/97048#:~:text=%22Adequate%20sleep%20duration%20could%20be,weight%20gain%2C%22%20Tasali%20noted.)
“Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled study.” Cureus, 2019; 11(9):e5797. doi.org/10.7759/cureus.5797