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New Study: Sleep More, Eat Less

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  March 19, 2012 09:45 AM

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Photo Source: CDC

Do you routinely get less than 8 hours of sleep nightly?  Are you also having trouble managing your weight?  If so, the two could be connected, according to new research. 

At last week’s American Heart Association’s scientific meeting in San Diego, California, Mayo Clinic researchers presented their findings involving healthy young adults who were forced to become sleep deprived.  Prior to the experiment, the researchers monitored the number of hours the subjects normally slept as well as how many calories they typically consumed daily.

During the experimental period, half of the subjects were allowed to sleep normally for 8 days, while the other half were forced to sleep for only 2/3 of their normal nighttime hours, or about 1 hour and 20 minutes less than their typical schedule.  Even though foods were freely available to both groups, the sleep-deprived group ended up consuming about 550 calories more daily during the experiment compared to when they were getting adequate sleep.  Keep in mind that consuming this many excess calories daily could manifest itself in an one pound weight gain by the end of a week.  Other studies have also shown that sleep deprivation is associated with increased feelings of hunger and body weight as well as depression, diabetes, and heart disease.  

While most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly, approximately 25 percent of American adults are trying to get by with 6 or less hours.   If you are routinely sleep deprived and struggling with your weight, getting adequate sleep may be one of the easiest ways for you to reduce both your hunger and your waistline.

For the sake of your waist, try these tips from the National Institutes of Health and the National Sleep Foundation:

•    Avoid alcoholic drinks in the evening.    While having a drink within an hour before bed may help you fall asleep sooner, it will also disrupt your sleep cycle during the night.  Alcohol can cause you to awaken in the middle of the night and make returning to sleep a nightmare.  With all this tossing and turning during, rather than sleeping, you’ll likely feel exhausted the next day.

•    Watch your caffeine intake during the day.  Your intake of mammoth-sized coffees, energy drinks, and sodas as well as other caffeine-containing beverages, could be fueling your alertness in the evening.  Try cutting back gradually on the amount of caffeine you consume, especially in the afternoon, by switching to decaffeinated alternatives. 

•    Don’t exercise too late in the day or in the early evening.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, strenuous exercise in the evening, even up to 3 hours before bed, can cause a rise in your body temperature and alertness, making it difficult to fall asleep.

•    Avoid large meals late at night. Eating too much too late can cause heartburn and also make you feel uncomfortable when lying down.

•    Relax before going to bed.  A warm bath may be just the thing to help get you in the mood to sleep.

Should you still have trouble sleeping, consider speaking with your healthcare provider.  It may be the best conversation and weight loss strategy that you can do for yourself.

Follow Joan on Twitter @joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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