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Sleep May Be the Secret to Successful Dieting

Trouble Sleeping?  It might be the reason why you can’t lose weight!

By Jessica Begley, MPH, Certified Sleep Consultant
Program Manager, Education and Training

We all know the feeling: the mid-afternoon slump that calls for another cup of coffee and candy bar or chips. It turns out that it’s not a lack of willpower, but a biological drive. And it starts with disrupted sleep.

The research on sleep and how it affects weight is growing. One of the most comprehensive studies that looks at sleep and weight found that women who slept 7 or less hours each night were more likely to become obese over the course of the 16 year studyResearch in children also shows that children who do not sleep enough as infants are at greater risk of being overweight and obese over the entire course of their lives, even after ruling out other factors such as their parents’ obesity, amount of time the spend watching, and physical activity levels.

How does not getting enough sleep affect weight?

When you sleep less, you have more wakeful hours to eat more.

Simply by being awake longer, you have more opportunities to eat more calories, especially later at night. People who go to bed later are more likely to have an extra snack later in the evening.

When we feeling tired we choose less healthy foods.Tired Junk Food

When you get even as few as two hours less sleep than you need per night, you are much more likely to increase the amount of food you eat as snacks, even if you still eat the same amount during meals.  Overtired people are more likely to eat that bag of chips (carbohydrates) or candy bar ( or other foods higher in fat, calories and carbohydrates) than their well-rested peers.  They make less healthy choices when shopping at the grocery store and even tend to over eat, choosing bigger portions.  Studies have also shown that people who get less sleep (because of a busy lifestyle) are also more likely to eat out  in restaurants which has also been linked to greater rates of obesity.

If we are tired, we are less likely to exercise or move.

We all know the familiar call of the couch… the last thing we want to do after tossing and turning all night is to head out for a run!

Feeling tired changes the hormones in your body that affect your appetite.

You have hormones that give your brain the “hungry” message when it’s time to recharge your energy, but the hormones don’t work as well when you are tired.  If you haven’t had enough sleep, these messengers will give your brain the hungry message even when you have had enough to eat, leading to an increased appetite and more snacking.


How can I incorporate sleep into my healthy weight plan?

Here are some simple steps you can take to get better sleep tonight:

  • Set a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day, even on the weekends. This will help set your body clock so that it expects when to sleep and when to wake.

  • Create a sleep sanctuary. Make sure that your bedroom promotes sleep. Think cave-like. Your room should be cool, dark and quiet.

  • Put away your smartphone, tablet and TV at least one hour before bedtime. The blue light that is emitted from your smartphone, tablet and television suppresses the hormone melatonin, which helps your body relax and fall asleep. Turn them off and keep them out of the bedroom.

  • Relax before bed.  A soothing bedtime ritual can help your body and brain relax enough to fall asleep easily. About an hour before you hope to be asleep, stop activities that make you stressed and focus on something that calms you, such as reading or taking a bath.

  • Consider what you eat and drink. Plan to eat your last meal of the day a few hours before your bedtime. If you’re still hungry, try a smaller snack that combines some carbohydrates and fats like banana with peanut butter or cheese and crackers. Stay away from alcohol, caffeine and high sugar drinks that can make it harder for you to settle into a deep sleep.

We are a society that places little value on sleep, so it’s no surprise that most Americans (75%) do not get the recommended 79 hours of sleep per night. This isn’t the only thing that is contributing to our growing obesity epidemic, but it certainly isn’t helping. And not getting enough sleep has also been linked to other poor health outcomes like heart disease, diabetes and car accidents.  You owe it to yourself and those who depend on you to get the rest you need to be healthy and alert during your waking hours.

Diet Success

You are putting so much thought and effort into losing weight, why let a lack a sleep sabotage your hard work?







If you would like more information on sleep, diet strategies, or any other health-related topic, the health educators at the Learning Resource Center are happy to help. They provide trusted & reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today! Be well, be well informed.


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