Sleep Off The Weight | Body and Soul

Published May 14, 2009

(www.BlackDoctor.org) -- Rather than resolve to lose 20 pounds this month, to never eat refined sugars again or to always eat whole grains over the white stuff, why not resolve to make one simple resolution that supports any weight loss resolution?

Resolve to make adequate rest your highest priority. Research shows that lack of sleep can contribute to poor job performance, difficulty concentrating, irritability, increased sickness and yes, weight gain. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, women sleeping 5 hours a night were one third more likely to have substantial weight gain, to the tune of more than 30 pounds over the 16-year study period, than those who slept at least 7 hours a night.

"People who sleep a natural, consistent amount generally maintain a more regular hormonal system than those who do not," says Dr. Douglas B. Kirsch, a Clinical Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Medical Director for Sleep HealthCenters in Beverly, MA.

In addition, "Fatigue plays a key role in your chances to get to the gym and to cook something healthy for the evening meal, rather than stopping off for fast food," notes Dr. Kirsch.

Guarding against fatigue by resolving to sleep roughly 8 hours a night will not only balance your hormones, but will bolster your willpower to exercise and eat healthy. Who knows, with reduced fatigue, you may even be inspired to park the car in the far corner of the lot to sneak in a few extra calorie-burning steps.


Here are some helpful tips:

-- Get up at a regular time everyday, including weekends. While it may sound downright dreadful to be waking at six in the morning on a perfectly good Saturday, keeping a regular wake time helps you fall asleep easier at night, which means better quality sleep overall. Plus, as long as you are awake at your regular time, feel free to lounge in bed for awhile before requiring yourself to physically be out of bed. The key is that your body has received the "time to wake up signal" at the usual time, regardless of the day of the week.

-- Avoid heavy meals right before bed. Ideally, stop eating 3-4 hours before bedtime so that your body has a chance to do some digesting before you go into sleep mode.

-- Avoid daytime naps, unless you are especially worn out. If you must nap, keep it to 45 minutes or less. You want to take the edge off of your sleepiness, not go into your deepest sleep in the middle of the afternoon.

-- Avoid caffeine after lunchtime. Giving up the mid-afternoon latte may seem like an insurmountable challenge, but limiting caffeine later in the day will help ensure a better night’s rest. Often people are convinced caffeine does not affect their sleep because they fall asleep without difficulty. However, caffeine can wreak havoc on the quality of your sleep and thus, deny your body precious time in the deepest sleep cycles during the night.

-- Create a bedtime ritual. Tuck the kids in, pack the lunches, feed the dog or do whatever chores require your attention in the evening, and then allow adequate time to unwind. For some, this can mean bubble baths, candles, or soothing music, but it can also mean simply turning off the evening news for starters. The important point is to establish a routine that signals your mind and body that bedtime is approaching. 

Sleep is a healthy, natural phenomenon that supports virtually all other behaviors, including successful body weight management.

BDO (www.BlackDoctor.org ) is the World’s largest and most comprehensive online health resource specifically targeted to African Americans.

Written by Rachel Cheatham, BDO Staff Writer

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