Sleep yourself slim. It sounds like a joke. Or the wildest “fad diet” ever proposed. But researchers say it’s 100 percent real.
It turns out you really CAN sleep your way to a slimmer version of yourself. And you can even get started as soon as TONIGHT.
I know it sounds strange at first. But if you’ve been reading Healthier Talk for a while, you may remember past studies uncovered links between sleep and weight before.
The latest research simply takes that science a step further. And it confirms that spending a bit of extra time in the sack could help you shed the excess fat.
But don’t just start sleeping in every morning, just yet. That could backfire on you unless you meet this ONE requirement.
I’ll give you all the details in just a moment. But first, let’s take a quick look at an earlier study that, in retrospect, showed the opposite side of the same weight-loss coin.
Too little sleep linked to being overweight
A few years ago, I wrote to you about a review published in the journal Obesity.
Researchers crunched data on sleeping habits and weight from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study in that review. And when they did, they found a glaringly obvious link between sleep and weight gain.
Ladies who were shorting themselves on shuteye… and clocking in at five or fewer hours of sleep a night… were 30 percent more likely to have packed on 30 pounds during the study.
For more details on that research, you can check out my earlier report, 2 weird ways to shed weight while you sleep.
That study and others found that not getting an adequate amount of sleep increases our appetites. We feel hungrier, we eat more, and we gain weight.
That brings us to the new study that revealed a sleep trick that could help many folks… perhaps even you… effortlessly drop some weight.
Researchers recruited 80 adult volunteers who were overweight and typically got less than 6.5 hours of sleep every night for the randomized clinical trial. And once again, just like in the earlier study, it appears that not getting enough shuteye can contribute to having too much junk in the trunk.
The researchers wanted to see what increasing the amount of sleep the participants were getting by an average of 1.5 hours a night would do. In other words, the goal was to have the participants start clocking in at 8.5 hours a night.
Sufficient shuteye could help you lose weight
Unlike some other studies in the past, volunteers didn’t have to sleep in a lab, eat food provided by researchers, or change any of their usual lifestyle habits. They slept in their own beds wearing an unobtrusive wearable sleep tracker.
And otherwise, they were to follow their regular routines. They got no instructions to change anything about their diet or exercise habits. And the results were, honestly, pretty remarkable.
Compared to controls, the volunteers who got the extra sleep reduced their energy intake by an average of 270 calories per day.
Now, I firmly believe calorie counting as an overall weight loss strategy is useless. But in this case, it’s easy to see where effortlessly lopping off nearly 300 calories a day might lead. When you do the math, you could potentially lose roughly 26 pounds over three years.
That’s nothing to sneeze at. Plus, of course, if you’re someone who routinely doesn’t get enough rest, there are bunches of other health benefits to be had by fixing your sleep habits. I wrote about the damage poor sleep can do over the long haul here.
Improve your “sleep hygiene”
So how did the poor sleepers increase their time in the sack by over an hour a night? After an hour of counseling, they improved something scientist types like to call “sleep hygiene.”
But if you’ve been a Healthier Talk reader for a while, it’s essentially just the same kinds of sleep-related suggestions I’ve been making for years.
They include relatively minor tweaks such as…
- Setting a specific bedtime and wake-up time and sticking to it. In this case, you’re aiming for 8.5 hours a night.
- Creating what I like to call a “sleep cave.” Make the bedroom as dark as possible. Add blackout curtains to the windows, or try a sleep mask if you want. Remove the TV and other electronics, especially those with lights of any sort on them. You can try earplugs if noise is an issue. And experts say the best sleep happens in a cooler room with a temperature that falls somewhere between 66 to 72 degrees.
- If habits like exercising or drinking caffeinated beverages in the evening contribute to your shorter sleep times, adjust them.
- Shut down all electronic backlit devices, including your smartphone, laptop, and television, at least an hour before your scheduled bedtime. Consider dimming the lights. And do a quiet, relaxing activity, such as reading. This helps kickstart melatonin production.
By making changes similar to these… and ones based on their own specific situations… the volunteers were able to quickly adjust their routines and increase their sleep times by an hour and a half. And the drop in “energy intake” (calories) followed.
There’s just one word of warning here. If you aren’t someone who chronically undersleeps like the folks in this study, this intervention isn’t likely to work for you. In fact, it could backfire.
Chronic oversleeping has been linked to insulin resistance, elevated blood sugar, and weight gain.