Couple Sleeping

How to Fight Weight Gain in Your Sleep

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Couple SleepingEverywhere you turn, someone is hawking some new weight loss miracle. “Take this and melt away the fat!” “Take that and drop four dress sizes in a week.”

Naturally, we have all become suspicious of weight loss claims — and rightly so. But what if you really could lose weight in your sleep?

According to researchers from Quebec, that promise is not only a reality, but it may hold the secret to maintaining a healthy weight over the years.[1]

The Sleep-Fat Connection

For years, research has shown us that too little sleep is associated with too much weight.[2] There are many hypotheses for this. The less you sleep, the longer you are awake and the more likely you are to eat.

Another theory is that by sleeping fewer hours, you throw off your hormonal regulation of how much you eat by affecting things like leptin and cortisol levels. Plus, there’s the constant fatigue and low energy that comes with too little sleep, which naturally affects your ability and desire to exercise.

But what happens when someone changes their sleeping patterns? If they start getting more sleep, can they prevent or even reverse weight gain?

To answer this question, researchers used details from the Quebec Family Study, a group of obese participants between the ages of 18 and 64. They chose those with self-declared short sleeping durations of less than six hours a day, giving them a total of 43 participants. They then chose people who reported sleeping at least seven to eight hours a night to serve as a control group.

They followed the participants for six years, and at the end of the six years, they learned that those people who continued to sleep less than six hours a night had a greater increase in fat mass, BMI and weight gain than those people who originally sleep fewer hours but subsequently increased their sleep to seven or more hours nightly.

These changes stayed consistent, even when researchers accounted for things like diet and exercise. Based on this, they concluded, “Short-duration sleepers who reported sleeping 7-8 hours per day six years later were less likely to gain weight compared with those who maintained their habitual short-sleep-duration habit.”

Get Those ZZZs

This one is pretty straightforward. If your waistline is a concern, your sleep schedule should be too.

Of course, it’s not always as easy as it sounds to get a good night’s sleep. To help you out, give these sleep tips a try:

1. Avoid daytime napping. The more tired you are, the more likely you are to fall and stay asleep.

2. Plan your exercise for earlier in the day. Working out too close to bedtime can energize you rather than calm you.

3. Make sure your bedroom is dark. A very dark room stimulates natural production of melatonin.

4. Use a white noise machine. The rhythmic humming of an air filter, dehumidifier or a natural sounds machine can block outside noise and help you fall asleep faster.

5. Establish regular bedtimes and waking times. Research has shown that people who head to bed before 11 p.m. get a better night’s sleep.

6. Run a warm bath and add in a few drops of lavender oil. Lavender increases the alpha brain waves associated with relaxation and induces sleep.

7. Several herbs have been proven to help you fall asleep, including valerian root and lemon balm. Research indicates that in addition to being helpful with regulating sleep cycles, valerian has also been shown to calm the nervous system, promote relaxation, and help with stress and anxiety. When it comes to lemon balm, research indicates that when utilized with valerian root, it has been shown to help support normal sleep and relaxation.

[1] Chaput JP et al. Loner sleep duration associates with lower adiposity gain in adult short sleepers. Int J Obesity. 2012;36:752-6.

[2] Nielsen LS et al. Short sleep duration as a possible cause of obesity: critical analysis of the epidemiological evidence. Obes Rev. 2011;12:78-92.

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