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Dr. Michael J. Breus

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Lose Weight, Sleep Tight

Posted: 05/22/08 03:13 PM ET

My trusty industry journal, Sleep, just published another study confirming what we've known for some time: waist size affects sleep quality. The bigger you are, the bigger your chances are of not getting a restful night's sleep.

An overview of the study was recently posted on WebMD, and it points out that "short sleepers" -- people who get fewer hours of sleep that others in their age group -- are more likely to be obese. This is true for both adults and children. For adults, a short sleeper is defined as someone who five hours or less of sleep. For kids, it's less than 10 hours.

Many researchers have suggested that short sleep may prompt hormonal changes that fuel appetite and caloric intake, thus leading to obesity. We already know the hormones that control appetite are negatively affected by sleep deprivation (sleep less, eat more), so this is very plausible. It's yet another call to make the necessary changes to shed those excess pounds.

Are Sleep Tips Enough?

I'm used to giving tips on getting a good night's sleep, such as teaching people how to create the perfect bedroom setting, and reminding them to get up and go to bed at the same time every day, to avoid stimulates like caffeine in the late afternoon, and to establish a Power Down hour prior to bed so they can prepare the mind and body for sleep.

But what if these tips are not enough? What if all the "sleep hygiene" recommendations mean diddly-squat when the prime reason for one's poor sleep is simply too much weight?

It means we must begin to give equal focus to the things we can do to reach our ideal weight and maintain it. So here are my top 5 weight-loss friendly ideas to think about throughout the day if you know you could lose a few.

5 Ways to Help Weight Loss

  1. Eat breakfast within one hour of rising (go for high-fiber cereals or low-fat yogurts topped with berries) and then be sure to eat something every 3 to 4 hours thereafter. This will keep your metabolism humming and your blood sugars stable throughout the day; you won't ever feel famished or stuffed.
  2. Replace sodas and fruit juices (including those labeled "diet")
    with water
    . This will help nix all those excess sugar calories,
    including artificial sweeteners that can trigger cravings. If you
    prefer, opt for sparkling water and throw a wedge of lemon or orange in
    it for more flavor. 
  3. Replace butter and margarine with vegetable oils and extra virgin
    olive oil
    . Use cooking sprays at the stove. This will help you stick
    to healthier fats.
  4. Switch from plain pastas, refined breads, and white rice to
    whole-wheat/high-fiber varieties.
    This will boost your daily fiber
    intake and also help keep your blood sugars stable so you feel
    satisfied and energized. The more fiber you get, the more calories your
    body won't absorb from the foods you eat!
  5. Avoid eating after 7 p.m.: this will help you to avoid late-night
    munching that takes your daily caloric intake off the charts.

If all of these ideas seem overwhelming, then just pick one -- just one -- that you can do this week. Next week, add another, and then another the following week. Small shifts add up to big changes.

And just think: you're killing two birds -- no, make that a flock of birds -- with one stone. Not only will you sleep better once the weight comes off, but you'll feel better, kick obesity out, and say good-bye to a slew of health risks like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and obstructive sleep apnea.

Good night.

This post is cross-posted at Dr. Breus's blog, The Insomnia Blog.

 
 
 

Follow Dr. Michael J. Breus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thesleepdoctor