More Sleep Helps Keep off Weight!

Doctor’s Orders: Sleep Well and Lose The Weight

Dr. Kent Sasse,
Author, Doctor’s Orders: 101 Medically Proven Tips For Losing Weight

Most Americans are overweight or obese today, and all those extra pounds take a tremendous toll on our health. It seems it is more difficult than ever to lose weight these days. Foods are more delicious, higher in calories, and more tempting than ever before. Our lives are also busier than ever, and finding time to exercise seems a nearly impossible task most days. But did you know that one of the best things you can do to successfully lose weight is get a good night’s sleep?
Research has shown that the lack of a good night of sleep leads to more weight gain. The mechanism is thought to be related to an increase in hunger and a decrease in some of our internal impulse control mechanisms. After a night of little sleep, we are tired, hungrier, less mindful of our food and snack consumption, and more apt to give in to temptation around food.
As a physician, I have definitely seen this phenomenon in my own life. After a night on call when I have had very little sleep, I tend to do a lousy job of eating well the next day. Somewhere in my subconscious I may seek to reward myself, or find comfort in things like doughnuts in the doctor’s lounge that I would usually avoid. I also find that if I have not slept enough hours that it is much harder for me to find the energy and motivation to go for a run or do other exercise. Bad combination: eating more treats and exercising less! No wonder lack of sleep is associated with weight gain and obesity.
So what can you do about it? Here are seven important practices you can undertake today that will maximize better sleeping and therefore help you in your journey to a healthier weight.
• For starters, don’t consume caffeine or other stimulants in the afternoon or evening.
• Establish a routine in which you sleep in a safe and comfortable environment that is controlled to your liking, paying attention to the temperature and darkness.
• Avoid alcohol beyond two or three ounces of wine. Alcohol makes us drowsy at first but causes a rebound effect that often wakes a person up in the wee hours and impairs rest.
• Avoid eating a large late night meal. This means a light dinner and no food after 8 PM.
• Find 30 minutes for a brisk walk or other exercise in your day or evening and you will sleep much better.
• Establish your bedtime and stick to it every night. Try to minimize emotionally charged events that occur close to bedtime.
• Set a goal of six to eight hours every night and stick to it. Once a week allow yourself to sleep longer and erase that sleep debt.
Importantly, many of us have unrecognized sleep disturbances that can only be diagnosed by a formal sleep study that is ordered by your doctor. The most common among these is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a common condition that usually occurs as a result of weight gain. OSA afflicts over ten million Americans and is on the rise. It results from airway obstruction by the soft tissues of the neck and throat. If you snore, cease breathing for ten seconds or more during sleep, sleep restlessly, wake up often in the night, experience morning headaches, or simply feel tired all the time, you may need a sleep study. And you may want to talk to your doctor about things like depression and alcohol use that impair sleeping.
Often, lack of sleep just seems like a necessity with all the other responsibilities in life that take up time. If you need to lose weight, then sleeping more hours needs to become a priority. So, consider it a good day when the doctor tells you that the first item on your To-Do list toward losing weight is to sleep more hours. Enjoy those extra Z’s and you will feel better and more energetic, and you will be far better positioned to succeed in achieving your weight loss goal.
So sleep more; it’s Doctor’s Orders.

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