How does sleep affect your weight?

What's the connection?

Does the math add up?

Do you ever faithfully journal your food and exercise? Have you ever tallied calories consumed and subtracted those burned only to be left wondering why your math doesn't equate to weight loss?

What is missing in this energy equation? The answer might be the number seven. That's the number of hours of sleep recommended by the Healthy People 2020 goals.

Both the rate of obesity and the rate of sleep deprivation have increased in the U.S. in the past 30 years. The statistics are surprisingly similar: More than 35 percent of adults are obese and about 30 percent get less than 6 hours sleep a night which is considered to be "partial sleep deprivation".

It turns out that beyond the drag and irritability that accompany lack of sleep, partial sleep deprivation has been shown to have negative effects on how the body regulates energy. The "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics" recently published a review of research about partial sleep deprivation and energy balance. This review found that reduced sleep may:

  • Disrupt appetite hormones
  • Promote greater food intake
  • Reduce energy expenditure
  • Change body composition to favor more fat storage

What's the take-home message?

Continue your healthy diet and exercise habits, but also try to get 7 to 9 hours of QUALITY sleep a night. Yes, that’s right, Quality. There is a big difference between getting 7-9 hours of quality, uninterrupted, sleep and 7-9 hours of restless pillow time. When you wake you should feel rested, energized, and ready for the day.

If you are not getting RESTFUL sleep there are a few things to consider. Getting quality sleep is accomplished by setting a healthy routine and creating a relaxing environment. In the evening:

• Set a bedtime

• Decrease stimulation

• Eliminate cell phone use

• Minimize liquid intake

• Avoid Exercise

• Avoid alcohol

• Resolve family issues

• Set the thermostat at 68 degrees

• Keep your room clean and clutter free

• AND make sure your room is DARK!

Just because you can function on less than 6 hours per night does not mean that it is ideal. Six to nine hours of sleep per night isn’t just good but necessary for a healthy functioning body. It just might be the missing factor in the weight loss equation.

Here's to sweet dreams.