What Can I Do to Lose Weight?

Suggestions abound regarding help to lose weight, and this short blog focuses on just one – sleep deprivation.

Being sleep deprived, either by choice or conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, can raise blood sugar levels and slow the body’s metabolism, and increase risk of diabetes and obesity, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Science Translational Medicine.

According to other sleep studies, merely seeing unhealthy foods activates reward centres in the brain. This, in spite of motivation to lose weight, will often lead to making poor food choices.

“The results suggest that, under restricted sleep, individuals will find unhealthy foods highly salient and rewarding, which may lead to greater consumption of those foods,” said study author Marie-Pierre St-Onge from St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University in New York. “Indeed, food intake data from this same study showed that participants ate more overall and consumed more fat after a period of sleep restriction compared to regular sleep.”

Sleep specialist Dr Susan Redline, from Boston, says “We know sleep is a critical biological function that influences a wide variety of physiological process. Sleep deficiency can affect mood and the ability to make memories and learn, but it also affects metabolism, appetite, blood pressure, levels of inflammation in the body and perhaps even the immune response.”

Various sleep studies have shown that sleep deprivation is linked to heart disease and cancer, obesity, diabetes, stroke, depression and anxiety.

I’ll cover sleep deprivation and insomnia in more detail in another article soon, but meanwhile here are a few basic suggestions to help sleep:

  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet – use black-out curtains or blinds, or a comfortable eye mask to cut out all light.
  • Keep your bedroom well ventilated and cool.
  • Don’t go to bed hungry, but try not to eat for several hours before bed if possible – avoid fatty foods especially just before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Turn off all screen lights, such as computer monitors and ideally TV, at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Relax with gentle conversation, or soft music, or a walk in the fresh air if appropriate, or a warm bath.
  • Aim to keep regular hours, and get to bed earlier rather than later – ideally by 10 pm
  • Aim for approximately 8 hours sleep

I’ve stressed the importance of sleep in my free guide to adrenal stress and fatigue, which you can download here.

Also see: Is Sleep a Waste of Time?