Weight Loss Tips

Could Sleep Habits Hinder Your Weight Loss Goals?

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By Patricia Jurek, RD, MBA

While it can be difficult to make time in your busy schedule to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, it is important to do so. Not only is sleep essential for your body to function, but too little sleep can affect your health, and even increase your risk for obesity. In fact, people who get less sleep at night tend to eat as much as 550 calories more during the day because food cravings and the desire to eat are higher (and more difficult to ignore) when you are tired. Studies show that sleeping habits can influence the success of weight loss intervention and should be taken into consideration when committing to a healthy diet.

To start getting more sleep at night, evaluate these habits that can negatively affect your sleep schedule:

  • Using electronics in bed: The blue light emitted by your cell phone, tablet or laptop can block the body from producing melatonin, a hormone that helps control your sleep cycles. This can make it take longer to feel tired.

    How to solve: Turn your electronics off an hour before going to bed and don’t keep them by your bed. If your device lights up while you are asleep, the bright light can affect your rest. Try using an alarm clock instead. If you are using your electronics at night, see if they have a nighttime setting to change the color of light emitted from the screen.

  • Watching television: Just like other electronics, your TV emits bright light that can impact your melatonin levels. What you watch can impact your sleep as well. If you watch a show that is intense, suspenseful or scary, your body becomes more alert – resulting in trouble sleeping, staying up too late or triggering late night binge eating.

    How to solve: Tape “intense” programs and watch them earlier in the day or on the weekend. Just like your electronics, try to limit the amount of TV you watch before bed by turning it off an hour before you plan to sleep.

  • Hearing interruptive noise: When your brain is distracted, it is common to have trouble falling asleep. Noises such as traffic, the TV or someone else’s snoring can keep you from falling asleep or wake you up in the middle of the night.

    How to solve: In short, try to block out noises. Keeping your window open at night can let in a nice breeze, but it makes sounds outside seem louder, so using a fan may be a better option. The noise of a fan or a white noise machine can help you relax.

Sometimes, other lifestyle factors can also affect your sleep. Consider these diet and exercise tips to help you better regulate your sleep schedule:

  • Control your diet. Cut out foods that can keep you awake such as caffeine, alcohol and spicy/fatty foods. Caffeine can still have an effect on your body six to 10 hours after consumption. And while some people may find it easier to fall asleep after a glass of wine, any bit of alcohol in your system can affect how restful your sleep is. Instead, consume foods that help you sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps with the body’s production of melatonin. Tryptophan is found in protein-rich foods such as milk, seafood, poultry, legumes and nuts. Melatonin-rich foods include tart cherries, walnuts, corn, rice and ginger root.
  • Re-evaluate snack time. Make sure you aren’t snacking during the day just to stay awake. If you start to feel tired, take a walk/exercise break, or make sure you are drinking enough water and aren’t starting to become dehydrated.
  • Take a nap. If you struggle to get enough sleep at night, it is okay to take a nap during the day. Just avoid taking too long of a nap or napping too close to bed time. 
  • Exercise. People who exercise more tend to have more restful sleep. Just like kids, sometimes we as adults also need to get our energy out. Not only will exercise help you get better sleep, but it can help you reach your weight loss goals.
  • Listen to your body. Everyone is different. Some people just don’t need as much sleep as others. Pay attention to your body when it gets tired and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. Being healthy will not only help your sleep, but it will help you feel good too.

If you have persistent issues with your sleep, talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist. Make an appointment by visiting henryford.com or calling 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Written By:

Patricia Jurek, RD, MBA

Pat Jurek, RD, MBA, is the manager for Henry Ford Macomb Hospital’s Center for Weight Management. Passionate about preventative disease management, Pat became a registered dietitian to help people live long, healthy lives. When Pat isn’t busy helping patients at Henry Ford, she's teaching others as an Adjunct Teacher at Baker College while making sure to make time for her family and friends. If she could spend a week anywhere in the world, she would visit Alaska.

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