Can lack of sleep keep you from losing weight?

There is a growing body of evidence that links chronic lack of sufficient sleep with an increased risk of obesity. The longest running study involved 68,000 women over a period of 16 years. Those who slept five hours or less per night gained about 2.5 pounds more on average than those who slept at least seven hours per night.

The research also noted that those women who slept less were about 15 percent more likely to become obese during the study period. Getting insufficient sleep increases the levels of ghrelin an appetite increasing hormone and decreases the level of leptin a satiation hormone.

Other studies demonstrated that participants who slept less tended to eat more snack type foods and obviously they have more waking time throughout the day to eat.

Getting good quality sleep is difficult for some people but there are some tried and true methods for getting more sleep and a better quality of sleep. A 2015 Gallup poll found that 42 percent of Americans average less than the usually accepted minimum of seven hours of sleep per night.

This situation besides making us sleepy and inefficient raises the risk of depression, depressed immunity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, as well as, yes, contributes to weight gain and difficulty taking it off.

Poor sleep habits and a lack of a bedtime routine contributes significantly to poor sleep quality and quantity. Here are some scientifically proven methods of improving your sleep.

Many studies demonstrate that those who work out regularly have better sleep patterns. However, you should try to work out earlier in the day so that the release of the feel good neurotransmitter dopamine, which exercise elicits, relaxes you and yet energizes the rest of your day.

If you must work out later in the day, do gentle exercise, like relaxational yoga or stretching and balance work. Getting all jacked up on high impact aerobics at night is not conducive to establishing a restful segue into sleep.

The warm cup of milk before bedtime has definite sleep-inducing qualities because of the tryptophan, but another overlooked nutrient is magnesium, which has a distinctive calming effect. Magnesium is found abundantly in nuts such as almonds, in whole grains, spinach and bananas.

Lack of magnesium is responsible for many sleep-time leg cramps, so if your sleep is disturbed by leg cramps, try a little supplementation with some magnesium-rich foods before bedtime for a more restful sleep.

If you have difficulty sleeping, prepare yourself mentally and physically by establishing a bedtime routine. Because you just can’t throw a switch to drop off to sleep, the routine might include taking a warm bath, reading some spiritually positive material and ensuring that the lights are out and the house secure before heading off to bed.

By establishing a routine and keeping the routine at roughly the same time every night, you signal your mind and body that it is now time to relax and rest. The darkness is important so that your body will produce the hormone melatonin which enables a deep restful sleep. Leaving a light on disrupts the production of this essential hormone.

Have the bedroom environment conducive to sleep. If your feet get cold at night, wear bed socks. If your head gets hot, have a cooling pillow or cool gel pack on hand. Most people sleep best if the bedroom is a little bit cool and most definitely dark and calm. Make the bedroom a place where you go to sleep, not to continue working or watching TV. That just disrupts the preparation to sleep routine.

You can use the power of suggestion to aid dropping off by thinking of relaxing words such as “cozy,” “relaxed,” and “comfortable.” A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology noted that people who were shown restful words before sleep slept an average of 62 percent longer. Another method is to use a sleep promoting audiotape which contains hypnotic suggestions to enable deep sleep.

These are tried and true methods of ensuring a better quality and quantity of sleep with all the naturally occurring benefits, including weight management. Especially at this busy time of year it is easy to forget the fundamentals of good health. I bid you season’s greetings and a very good night! Aloha!


Dr. Jane Riley, EdD., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at, (808) 212-8119 cell/text. and


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