Sleep More, Stress Less--and Lose Weight!

 

Most of us are getting less than 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, which experts say is the minimum amount that a person needs to maintain a healthy weight. Most of us also face high amounts of stress as well.

Now a group of researchers reports that these 2 factors--not enough sleep and too much stress--could be one of the main culprits sabotaging our weight-management goals.

Increased sleep + reduced stress = more successful weight loss?

A study just published in the International Journal of Obesity shows that getting 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night, while at the same time managing stress effectively, may double your chances of winning at the weight-loss game.

The study, from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, involved almost 500 overweight men and women who volunteered to participate in a 26-week intervention looking at their diets and lifestyles. Here are the results:

  • The average study subject lost 14 pounds.
  • Sixty percent of participants lost at least 10 pounds.
  • Those who slept at least 6 to 8 hours every night and reported having the least stress were twice as likely to lose at least 10 pounds, compared to those who reported being sleep-deprived and experiencing the most stress.

How to get more sleep and reduce stress

While it might be easier said than done to implement this program, here are a few tips I give to my patients:

  • Check in with your stress throughout the day. Is your breathing deep or shallow? This is important to note because shallow breathing can often accompany stress. I'm a big fan of deep breathing, and sometimes use my training as a registered yoga teacher to demonstrate deep-breathing techniques to my clients. (Here are some deep-breathing exercises from the American Lung Association.) You might also consider gentle yoga, meditation, or Tai chi to help manage your stress.
  • Get to bed earlier. If you have a hard time getting to bed at a decent hour, think about buying an automatic light timer for your main light source in your living room (or wherever you hang out during the later hours). If you program this device to turn off your light at least 30 minutes before you want to get to sleep, you'll have no trouble "remembering" when you need to start heading p to bed.
  • Make your bedroom a calm and restful place. First, keep TVs, cell phones, and computers out of the bedroom. Next, block out bright lights that might keep you awake by hanging dark curtains on bedroom windows--or consider wearing an eye mask while in bed.
  • Avoid eating before bedtime. Avoid eating large meals within a few hours of bed time; this will not only help you to avoid gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but might help you cut down on calories as well.
  • Don't exercise too close to bedtime. Exercise is a wonderful way to tire yourself out, true, but it also generates endorphins and adrenaline--2 biochemicals that disrupt sleep.
  • Consider getting checked for sleep apnea. If you keep waking up tired, no matter how much sleep you get, you might have sleep apnea--especially if your weight could be healthier. Treatment for this disorder could help you lose weight, as well as feel a whole lot more refreshed when you wake up.

The bottom line

If you're working on weight loss but at the same time you're living through some high-stress times and aren't getting enough sleep, why not give this "sleep-more-stress-less" plan a try?

To less stress and more sleep, dear readers!

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