If you want a really easy weight loss tip, then this is it: Go to bed and turn out the lights!
Research has shown that people who get at least 8 hours sleep a night lose more weight than those that get less than 6 hours of sleep, even if diet (in terms of both calories consumed and type of food eaten) is the same and exercise regime is the same.
In addition to this, recent research has also shown that there is a link between light and weight gain. In a study on mice it was found that sleeping with even just a dim light on resulted in increased appetite and increased weight gain.
So, if you are almost losing weight with your healthy diet and workouts, but not quite, or just hit a wall recently that you cannot seem to get past, then maybe the answer is to sleep on it, and sleep well.
The research was carried out by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, America. The research was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine which is a part of the National Institutes of Health (nih.gov), which is in turn a part of the US Department of Health and Human Sciences. So basically, this is a government backed piece of research which gives it some credit. The research was also published in the International Journal of Obesity.
6 Month Weight Loss Plan
In the study researchers analysed a activities and lifestyle factors from a group of people who were on an active weight loss plan. Although there is more research to be carried out initial findings found that irregular sleep and lack of sleep is a risk factor for the development of obesity.
One theory is that reduce sleep affects hormone levels which disrupt appetite suppression and metabolism. In addition to lack of sleep, spending more time in front of a computer screen or television also raises the risk of a person becoming obese, as does depression and stress. However, it is not so much that using a computer makes you fat, it is simply that people who use computers more tend to have less time for exercise.
So fat the research has examined 472 obese adults over a 6 month period which included a weight loss plan. All the adults studied we at least 30 years old and have a body mass index of 30-50. Anything over 40 is considered morbidly obese. A healthy weight is a BMI below 25 and above around 18. All the subjects in the study had their diet and exercise habits recorded every day for the 6 months. They all had to perform at least 180 minutes (3 hours) of exercise each week. There were also 22 group support sessions, almost one per week.
Over the 6 month plan average weight loss was 6.3 kg and 60% of subjects lost 4.5 kg (10 pounds). Not how there was a general success while on the plan – all those people who fail to lose weight fail simply because they do not stick to the plan. The weekly support groups are very helpful in keeping people motivated.
On average the subjects actually performed 195.1 minutes of exercise each week, more than the amount set by the plan.
The people who slept for less than 6 hours tended to lose less weight. When you think about this, this is not expected at all. We burn more energy while awake than when sleeping. Also, being awake provides more opportunities for activities such as exercise. However, the results are clear – if you lack sleep you are less likely to lose weight.
Chronic stress is thought to be a major contributing factor. Stress affects hormonal levels and the effects of stress actually build up over time. This often leads to increase comfort eating and binge eating which can dramatically increase calorific intake.
Of course, this does not mean that if you get more sleep you will lose weight, it just means that a lack of sleep sets you up for weight gain or slower weight loss.
- Elder CR, Gullion CM, Funk KL, et al. Impact of sleep, screen time, depression and stress on weight change in the intensive weight loss phase of the LIFE study. International Journal of Obesity 2011, March 29.
- Sleep patterns affect weight loss. BBC News, March 20 2011
- Sleep ‘affects weight loss’, NHS Choices, March 30 2011