Saturday, 5 March 2016

How to Lose Weight by Sleeping More

Are you sleep starved?

We've all heard "eat less, workout more and you'll lose weight". But could we be all missing a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to losing weight?

When you're sleeping, you're not eating. But you're also not burning many calories by lying in bed so why should I believe that sleeping an extra hour or two will help me lose weight? Surely my spin session where I sweat out a litre of water matters much more than sleep, right? Recent studies show that getting quality sleep at the right time of day is a crucial factor in losing weight. I'm not going to tell you that it's more important than what you're eating but it is a critical puzzle piece that works together with diet and exercise to help you reach your optimal health and weight.

Sleep, good nutrition and a bit of exercise every day are 3 factors that get easier when they're all in harmony.
Are you sleep starving? Lack of sleep not only affects your impulse control but also makes you feel hungrier!

When you're well rested you have more energy for your workout and when you've got a good workout in you feel more motivated to stick to healthy eating. And guess what, when you get a good workout in and eat right you'll sleep better! It's all part of a spiral that we can either use to gain better health, or, when it's working against us it can make us feel like getting healthy is out of our control and we're fighting a brick wall. Sleep is an easy part of the cycle to forget but it makes the other two factors so hard!

Studies show that when we're tired, we get more hungry - even when we're eating the same amount! 

When you're sleep deprived your body produces more gherlin, which is the body's hunger hormone. Your levels of leptin, which signals signals fullness,  also go down. Your body is literally working against you when you're low on sleep. This is compounded with a rise in cortisol (the stress hormone) which signals your body to conserve fat to keep your body going.

In essence lack of sleep brings your metabolism to a screeching halt.

Lack of sleep also dulls our decision making abilities meaning we make more decisions on impulse rather than with logic. Impulse-buying (and eating) that chocolate bar in line at the grocery store is easy to resist when we're well rested but almost impossible to say no to when we're exhausted.  When you're tired your body craves energy rich foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates. Lack of sleep also hinders your body's ability to process sugar. Even after 4 days of lack of sleep studies show that insulin sensitivity can drop by 30%. That puts your body in a pre-diabetic state. So how much sleep should I really be getting?

Are you sleep starving? Lack of sleep not only affects your impulse control but also makes you feel hungrier!

People need between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep per night.

Research shows that even people that think they can function on less sleep have reduced mental capacity - even if it's just for one night. Studies show that you have more difficulty making decisions, thinking and even getting along with other people. Lack of sleep makes you more cranky and irritable too. It's not just about the number of hours though, it's about the quality of your sleep. If you're having vivid dreams and waking up throughout the night you may have issues with the quality of your sleep. It could be a factor you haven't considered because the issue came on slowly. One of the biggest factors that affect sleep quality is the amount of sunlight you get during the day. If you work in an office, or live far from the equator (like in Canada) you might consider light therapy or changing your habits like trying a walk at lunchtime to get more sun. Getting better quality sleep can take time and paying attention to your own body. Of course to get better sleep you should limit caffeine. You may try limiting caffeine to one glass a day and only before noon.

Did you know, though, that alcohol has just as much of an effect on your sleep as caffeine? 

Alcohol - although it makes you fall asleep faster - puts your brain in a state of excitement where it cannot fall into deep sleep. It affects the brain ability to fall into the restorative phases of sleep. Over 27 studies, in fact, have found that alcohol adverses affects quality of sleep. It especially affects sleep in the second half of the night. Are you someone (like me) who wakes up at 5 am after a night of drinking and always wondered why? It's not because you already got such a great sleep that night, it's because you weren't very deeply asleep in the first place! Alcohol may trick you into thinking you're getting a better sleep but you're actually not. The more you drink the bigger the effect is. The good news is that one drink has a minimal effect on sleep so that glass of wine with dinner is still okay (yay!).

Alcohol may help put you to sleep but your quality of sleep will suffer.
Avoid drinking more than one glass of wine before bed.

Electrolyte levels - like magnesium - affect your sleep too. 

You know how at the beginning of this post I talked about how nutrition, fitness and sleep all work together? This is a great example of just that. Low calcium and/or magnesium levels can cause insomnia, muscle twitches (like an eye twitch), headaches, constipation, tingling sensation or numbness and fatigue. Calcium is obtained from dairy easily but it's tough to get magnesium from food because it must be existing in the soil, and soil is often low in magnesium. I try to get all of my nutrition from food sources but magnesium is a tough one, so in this case I take a supplement. Here's the kicker. Magnesium absorption is aided by Vitamin D (and therefore hard to absorb without sun exposure). During Canadian winters my natural Vitamin D intake drops to about zero. Therefore I take a Vitamin D supplement at the same time as my magnesium. Here's the second kicker - calcium blocks magnesium absorption so, if you're taking a multi-vitamin it doesn't count for magnesium. Therefore I take the multi-vitamin in the morning, and, the Magnesium at night (with a Vitamin D tablet). Magnesium can make you sleepy so it's best to take it before you go to bed and then take calcium in the morning when you wake up (especially if you're avoiding dairy). Even if you don't have sleep issues or want to bother with magnesium all Canadians should probably be taking a Vitamin D supplement in the winter since sunlight is such a scare resource.
Well balanced electrolytes can aid in sleep.
Take magnesium before bed for better sleep

Working out in the morning may help you sleep better at night.

The idea is, doing a workout in the morning is a good way to jump start your body's natural wake/sleep rhythm and get you into the waking mode. The faster you're in the wake mode the better you will sleep later at night! Even a doing some jumping jacks when you wake up or choosing to walk to work is a great way to start. Try a short workout video like 22 Minute Hard Corps to get your body moving after you roll out of bed without having to go to the gym. Since exercise releases cortisol (the stress hormone) it's also a good idea to avoid working out right before bed. When you go to sleep you want to be relaxed and calm, after all. Of course, getting some physical activity during the day is a great way to help you sleep better.

A short workout in the morning like 22 Minute Hard Corps can help you sleep better at night.
A short workout in your living room can help get
 your day started and help you sleep better at night!

A light alarm can help wake you up gradually so your REM cycle isn't interrupted. 

When your alarm goes off in the morning you have no way of knowing if you're in the middle of a 90 minute REM cycle or not. A light alarm slowly increases brightness over the course of a half hour during an artificial "sunrise" period. The more expensive light alarms even change colour from a orange-yellow to a bright white light. Though the light doesn't increase over a whole 90 minutes the likelihood of your body being at the end of the REM cycle somewhere in that 30 minute "sunrise" period is quite good. I've use a light alarm for 3 years now and sometimes I wake up right at the beginning of the "sunrise" period and sometimes it's right at the end. Very rarely (usually if I stay up too late the night before) I will wake up and then go back to sleep for another half hour. Because I've left the light on though my body knows that I should only sleep in for about 30 minutes before I wake up again and realize I should really get up, for real.

I used to struggle to get out of bed and have 3 different alarms set. Now that I have a light alarm my feet are literally on the floor before the sunrise finishes. 

Getting out of bed is something I've struggled with all my life so to say I can get out of bed at 730 without a blaring alarm (or rather a set of 3 alarms set at different intervals) is amazing for me. I also wake up feeling more awake and less groggy and irritable than with a regular alarm. If I'm going to be away from the house for more than a few days I literally take my light alarm with me - I love it that much. If you struggle with waking up in the morning I would highly recommend you go for the Caddilac of light alarms with the colour changing feature - the Philips Wake-Up Light. I tried a FEW other light alarms and this one worked the best for me. I tried a cheap one from China (the light bulb blew out after a few weeks) , then I tried the Philips HF3500/60 Wake-Up Light without the colour changing "sunrise", then, I finally upgraded to the cadillac version - the Philips HF3520 Wake-Up Light Coloured Sunrise Simulation . The cadillac version which changes colour and also gives off a stronger light which helps your brain realize it's time to wake up. For me it works a lot better than the cheaper HF3500 - it was well worth the upgrade! I can't say the HF3500 was bad by any means - it looks really cool and is easy to program and operate. It takes up less room than the 3520. It also has a neat tap feature where if you just touch it the alarm goes into snooze mode.  All in all my favourite is the HF3520 though with the coloured sunrise simulation.

Try a light alarm to wake up feeling well-rested.
Philips HF3520 - the cadillac of light alarms

Control your environment for a better sleep.

Do you have blackout curtains? Go get some tonight to get your room as dark as possible. Think a fan will keep you up? Try running it for a few nights and see how it goes. The white noise of a fan dampens all the other creaks and noises in your house so those other noises don't wake you up. Even the furnace turning on is enough to wake me up if I don't have my fan going. You can also try a white noise machine which works well for a lot of people but I prefer a good ol' fan. Like this cheap one from Honeywell  that is pretty strong for a $19 fan!
The noise of a fan will dampen other noises
in your house - helping you sleep better.

Ways to Improve your Quality of Sleep

  • Take a magnesium supplement with a Vitamin D supplement before bed and a calcium supplement at in the morning.
  • Keep your room very dark and use blackout curtains
  • Stick to a routine including the same wake up time every day (even on weekends) and the same bedtime.
  • Go to bed around 10 pm to best utilize the natural rhythm of the sun.
  • Don't drink coffee, pop or energy drinks after lunch.
  • Workout in the morning - even if it's a few jumping jacks.
  • Get as much sunlight and fresh air as possible or use light therapy to increase melatonin.
  • Keep your bedroom slightly below room temperature.
  • Only use your bedroom for sleeping. 
  • Set a bed time routine, like reading a book, and stick to it.
  • Avoid screens like TV, phones and computers. 
  • Avoid more than one drink of alcoholic beverages.
  • Use a light alarm to wake yourself up gradually so you don't interrupt a REM cycle.
  • Use white noise like a fan or white noise machine.

Have any great sleeping tips? Share them in the comments, I'd love to hear them! Thanks for reading and happy sleeping.

 - Lain

You also might like: How I lost 15 Lbs in 60 Days or 11 Ways to Actually Complete a Workout Program


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