Here’s how you may be able to sleep your way to weight loss

Whether you’re aiming to drop a few pounds or attempting a more dramatic weight loss, getting ample sleep can assist in the effort.

On the flip side, sleep deprivation has a negative impact on weight loss and maintaining optimal weight, according to multiple studies released in recent years.

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A 2022 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients found “disturbed sleeping patterns, in terms of both quantity and quality, have been documented to lead to an increase in energy intake, mainly from snacking, especially on foods rich in fat and carbohydrates.”

A 2015 review published in the peer-reviewed journal Advances in Nutrition found evidence suggesting short-sleepers who sleep fewer than seven hours each night may develop short or long-term eating behaviors.

The sleep-deprived may consume food in several ways that damage health, including “deviating from the traditional (three meals a day) to fewer main meals and more frequent, smaller, energy-dense, and highly palatable snacks at night,” according to the researchers.

They found inadequate rest had minimal effect on dietary intake in the short term but “if chronic, it may contribute to an increased risk of obesity and related chronic disease.”

One meta-analysis published in the peer-reviewed journal European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found subjects who were sleep deprived ate or drank a whopping 385 extra calories per day — and a high portion of those calories came from fat.

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Mixed in with all the discouraging news, though, is a hopeful study published in the February 2022 edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.

The research did find that sleep-deprived adults eat more calories.

“More recently, the question that everyone was asking was, ‘Well, if this is what happens with sleep loss, can we extend sleep and reverse some of these adverse outcomes?’” said Dr. Esra Tasali, lead researcher and sleep disorder expert.

The answer was a resounding “Yes.”

Study participants went about their daily lives outside of a lab setting and in the later stages received counseling about improving their sleep habits.

“We simply coached each individual on good sleep hygiene and discussed their own personal sleep environments, providing tailored advice on changes they could make to improve their sleep duration,” said Tasali, Director of the UChicago Sleep Center at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Researchers found participants, on average, were able to get more than an hour of added sleep per night after a single counseling session. This gain came as participants did not describe changing their daily routines.

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On average, participants who were able to get more sleep also reduced their calorie consumption by 270 daily.

The researchers did not determine whether those effects could continue over the long term but theorized that a person who ate 270 fewer calories than normal each day could expect to lose around 26 pounds in a year.

“Many people are working hard to find ways to decrease their caloric intake to lose weight — well, just by sleeping more, you may be able to reduce it substantially,” Tasali said.

A couple of factors make this neat weight-loss technique a bit tougher for mature adults, though, even after you see the evidence that sleep can impact weight loss as dramatically.

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People 55 or older may be led astray by accepting the myth that they don’t need as many z’s as their younger counterparts.

Older adults need the same recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night as other adults, though they do tend to go to bed and rise earlier than they used to.

Feeling sick or being in pain — common aging maladies — can also limit your ability to sleep. These and other factors contribute to the dismaying ranking of insomnia as the most common sleep problem in adults ages 60 and older, according to the National Institute on Aging.

But increased hours of rest via what experts call improved sleep hygiene are not out of reach.

It’s most important to start simply — and without delay, according to Jean-Philippe Chaput, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group.

He told Endocrine Web people should begin with a wind-down ahead of getting in bed, turning off all the screens 30 minutes prior.

“Read a hardcover book, listen to music,” he said.

And if the half-hour without a cell phone, laptop, or television seems too harsh, try 15 minutes and build up to a longer period, Chaput said.

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