Sleep Needs to be Critical Part of Your Effort to Maintain Weight

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  •     Dieting and exercising, but still gaining weight? You may need to look no farther than your mattress and pillow to find a potential root cause of your continued weight troubles.
        Recent research indicates that lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. In an article for Newsweek, Dr. Lawrence Epstein, a sleep physician at Harvard Medical School, reports that several studies have shown the consequences of too little sleep. For instance, a University of Chicago study found that too little sleep alters the body’s secretion of some hormones. These bodily changes result in increased appetite as well as reduction of feeling sated after a meal. Additionally, the body’s response to sugar intake is altered, which can cause weight gain and increase the risk of developing diabetes.

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        A team of Case Western Reserve University and Harvard Medical School researchers found agreement by all of the large studies that following people over time that “short sleep duration was associated with future weight gain,” Epstein wrote. “This connection was particularly strong in children; all 31 studies in children showed a strong association between short sleep duration and current and future obesity.” He notes that one study by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine “showed an inverse correlation between sleep duration and obesity in high-school-age students. The shorter the sleep, the higher the likelihood  of being overweight with those getting six to seven hours of sleep more than two and a half times as likely to be overweight as those getting more than eight hours.”
        However, the effects on weight can be reserved. “The university of Chicago study on sleep duration and appetite found that allowing the study subjects to sleep 10 hours for two consecutive nights returned the hormones to normal levels and lowered hunger and appetite ratings by almost 25 percent,” Epstein said.
        So what can you do to encourage better sleep? On HealthCentral’s, Beth Irvine reports that some foods can help you quiet your mind, ease your muscles, and get sleep-inducing hormones flowing to promote a good night’s sleep. These foods include:

    • Tryptophan, an amino acid that comes from foods that we eat. “Once tryptophan-containing food crosses the blood-brain barrier, it converts to the ‘sleep-inducing hormones’ serotonin and melatonin,” Irvine writes. “When your serotonin and melatonin get flowing you feel relaxed, making it easier to nod off. It is important to combine tryptophan-containing foods with carbohydrates. They work very well together, becoming even more effective at calming your brain.”
    • Calcium, a mineral that helps brain use and process tryptophan.
    • Magnesium, a natural sedative, which binds with calcium, allowing it to be absorbed into the body.

          Irvine suggests healthy bedtime snacks to eat, but warns that over-indulging can backfire by putting the digestive system into working too hard, which can keep you awake and lead to indigestion.  She suggests that the snack fit into the palm of your hand and that you should eat it 45 minutes to an hour before bedtime. These snacks include:

    • Banana with small glass of milk
    • Small bowl of oatmeal or cereal with milk
    • Small yogurt with granola sprinkled on top
    • Half bagel or a few crackers with peanut butter, an ounce of cheese or a slice of turkey on top
    • Sliced apple with 1 ounce of cheese
    • One scrambled egg with toast
    • Chamomile tea

        Other ways to promote sleep, as suggested by, include:

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    • Using relaxation techniques (meditation, progressive relaxation, a warm bath).
    • Unwind mentally (read or listen to soothing music).
    • Stop worrying while in bed. Instead, make a list of problems and next steps for the next day prior to going to bed.
    • Go to bed when you’re sleepy.
    • Follow a schedule.
    • Improve your sleep environment through adjusting temperature, blocking out noise and eliminating distractions such as TVs.

        Getting enough sleep should be an integral element in your diet and exercise plan. Determining how to get enough shut eye is not only food for thought, but it’s a worthy goal to sleep on.

Published On: June 29, 2010