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Sleep as a diet aid is counter-intuitive. It seems lazy and inactive—the antithesis of go-go dynamic activity that burns calories. But research through studies at respected institutions such as Stanford, Northwestern, Columbia, New York University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin all point to the same conclusion: less than seven hours of sound sleep per night significantly increases the probability of overweight and even obesity.
Subjects with various levels of sleep deprivation consistently exhibit an increase in hormones that stimulate hunger—particularly for high-calorie, high-carb foods—and a decrease in hormones that sustain a sense of fullness. These subjects also exhibit a higher Body Mass Index (read: they're fatter).
Most readers are not requesting, “Please give me the excruciating details of complex hormonal interactions eliciting this effect.” Going with the assumption that the researchers know what they’re doing, this fourth article in the Indulgence 101: the way of the proper diet series looks at ways to improve your odds of adequate, quality sleep to support good health in general and a healthy weight specifically.
- The hardest and most important step is to set regular sleep hours for yourself, and better yet get buy-in from your entire household. Stick to it. Turn off the television, get off email and Facebook. Commit to making a bedtime that allows at least seven hours of sleep as important as exercise and proper nutrition.
- Avoid these before bedtime: caffeine (7 hours); sugar, grains, and fluids (2 hours); television, suspenseful reading, and other entertainment that might lead to over-stimulation (1 hour).
- Indulge in these before bedtime: journaling (do a brain dump to ease that in-bed mind-racing); soothing music; meditation; a small protein snack with fruit (2 hours before).
- Wear socks to bed. Cold feet make for lousy sleep.
- Keep your bedroom at 70° F or cooler. Use blankets as needed.
- Invest in comfortable, comforting bedding.
- If you consistently have difficulty sleeping, see your medical practitioner for possible underlying factors, such as sleep apnea or other health issues that might require treatment.
Sleep well. Sleep more. Weigh less.
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Other articles you may find of interest:
Indulgence 101: the way of the proper diet
Indulgence 101: satiety for diet success
Indulgence 101: real taste, real diet success
Water: the miracle diet elixir
Super-charge your diet and fitness program with the breath of life
Ironman is out: a fitness plan for the less ambitious
An exercise in gratitude: giving thanks for this most imperfect miraculous body
When accumulated grief keeps you overweight