4 nighttime weight loss tips
Did you know how you sleep affects what you eat, and little sleep can actually sabotage your diet? You’ve likely heard it’s important to get 7-9 hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep every night, but what is it exactly that hinders your weight loss goals?
“There are multiple factors when it comes to lack of sleep that hinder weight loss,” says Rosemary Mueller, a registered dietitian at Advocate Medical Group’s Weight Management Program in Park Ridge, Ill. “Research shows that individuals starved of sleep not only ate more late at night, but also ate more carbohydrates and fats. An additional study found that sleeping too little prompted people to eat bigger portions of all their foods.”
Still the question remains, why?
Mueller says some of the factors at play include:
- Caffeine. When you are short on sleep, many rely on caffeine to get going, which is dehydrating.
- Lack of exercise. Often when you’re tired, you skip early morning or post work exercise, says Mueller.
- Bad decisions. “Skimping on sleep sets your brain up to make bad decisions,” Mueller explains. “In fact, it actually dulls the activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, which controls decision making and impulse control.” So when you are tired, you are more prone to eat things you may not have intended to eat, or food that you otherwise could have resisted.
- Hormones. Insufficient sleep impacts some of the hunger and fullness hormones, namely ghrelin and leptin. When you are sleep deprived, ghrelin production increases (so you get hungrier), and leptin levels decrease (signaling your brain to encourage eating). Cortisol also spikes when you get too little sleep, which encourages your body to conserve energy to fuel you in your waking hours. This makes it more likely you’ll hang on to fat. With insufficient zzz’s, your body’s ability to process insulin also goes a little awry. Insulin is a hormone needed to change sugar, starch and other foods into energy. This leads to decreased insulin sensitivity and more fat storage.
So what should you do to make sure you get sufficient sleep to support your weight loss goals?
“Stick to a schedule of regular bed times and wake ups,” advises Mueller. “This helps your body get into a rhythm. Turn out the lights, even electronics, before you head to bed. Darkness cues your body to release the natural sleep hormone, melatonin and can help your body decelerate and get ready for sleep by decreasing the amount of blue spectrum light you’re exposed to at night.”
Mueller also says one secret for weight loss is turning down the thermostat to 66-68 degrees. Sleeping in a cooler room may slightly increase your body’s production of brown fat, which is a more metabolically active form of fat, potentially influencing your overall metabolism.
Finally, if you are going to have a nighttime snack, keep it small and high in protein. If it’s planned and counted as part of your total caloric intake for a diet, eating 200 calories or less before bed may actually help you lose weight by preventing uncontrolled late night snacking or overeating at breakfast.
Need some ideas? Try these calorie appropriate snacks:
- 100-200 calorie protein smoothie
- 6 oz of Greek yogurt with 4 chopped walnuts and strawberries
- 1 container of carrot stick with ¼ container of hummus
- A hard-boiled egg with a slice of whole-grain toast
Note individuals with GERD (gastroespophageal reflux disease) are often advised not to eat just prior to sleeping. If in doubt, consult your doctor.
About the Author
Jacqueline Hughes is a former manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.