Lose Weight Through Better Sleep

By Dr. Michael Breus, PhD The Sleep Doctor

Lose Weight Through Better Sleep

Many of us have been hearing the “weight-loss hormone” story for a while. If you are sleep deprived:

  1. Your body makes moreghrelin, the hormone that says “GO, eat more” and ...
  2. Your body makes less leptin, the hormone that says “STOP,” and tells your body it is full, and ...
  3. Your body makes more cortisol, which can increase your appetite.

But the recent question Dr. Oz asked me was critical to everyone’s better understanding of the relationship between sleep and weight loss: “I would think that that anytime I am awake I would burn more calories. Why isn’t this the case?”

It all has to do with our stages of sleep, specifically REM sleep.

During REM sleep your brain is more active than any other stage. In fact, in some cases, it is more active than when you are awake. This activity requires fuel for thought, called glucose, the basic building block of most foods.

Sleep follows a very particular, and fairly predictable, cycle in most individuals each night: 

Your brain goes from: Wake to Stage 1, from Stage 1 to Stage 2, from Stage 2 to Stages 3 and 4, back to Stage 2 and on into REM sleep. You can see this in the graph above. But look at the yellow bar. This represents REM sleep, and notice how it gets longer and longer as the night progresses. This shows how your body gets more REM sleep in the very early morning hours. Just like riding a bike uphill, you have to climb up before you can coast down that hill, and you need to go through the first few sleep cycles to get more REM sleep.

So, what happens when you only get 6 hours of sleep? You cut off that last REM period, which is where your brain uses the most calories. What does that mean for your waistline? Over the course of a year, one research study from Sao Paulo showed this could add up to as much as 14 pounds of extra weight.


What can you do to sleep better and lose this weight? In my Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan, there are five simple rules to help you get the sleep you need to take advantage of the natural weight-loss benefits sleep, and in particular REM sleep, provides:

1. Stick to 1 Sleep Schedule: The consistency of a regular sleep schedule allows your brain to know when it is time to sleep and when it is time to be awake. The more regular your schedule, the more likely you are to fall asleep and stay asleep. Remember, the longer you sleep, the more calorie-burning REM sleep you get.

Sleep Tip: Use your alarm to help you know when to go bed to get the right amount of quality sleep. Don’t use the snooze button to potentially interrupt those final minutes of REM sleep! Set your alarm in the morning for the last possible minute you need to be out of bed.

2. Stop Caffeine by 2 p.m.: Caffeine can be in your system up to 10 hours after you drink or eat it. Caffeine can not only prevent some people from falling asleep, but caffeine also keeps your brain out of the deeper more refreshing stages of sleep that you need for weight loss.

Sleep Tip: If you are feeling drowsy in the middle of the day, try my Nap-a-Latte™ technique: quickly drink a small cup of cool drip coffee, and then take a 25-minute nap. The Nap-a-Latte™ reduces your drowsiness and the caffeine will wake you up, but taken at the right time (before 2 p.m.) will not keep you awake at night.

3. Stop Alcohol 3 hours Before Bedtime: It takes about four hours for an average person to metabolize the average alcoholic beverage. Once metabolized, your body needs to urinate and this can disrupt sleep. Alcohol can certainly make you drowsy, but keeps you out of the deep stages of sleep you need for weight loss.

Sleep Tip: Try the “glass for a glass method.” Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you drink. And stop all alcohol 3 hours before your bedtime alarm goes off (Sleep Tip #1).

4. Stop Exercise 4 Hours Before Bed: Research shows that raising your core body temperature a few hours before bed can help you fall asleep, and regular exercisers get more deep sleep where growth hormone is produced, which tells your body to burn fat.


Sleep Tip: Work out earlier in the evening and consider yoga, deep breathing, or stretching before bed.

5. Give the Sun a High Five Every Morning: Light resets your biological clock every day and sunlight is the best type of light there is! Getting 15 minutes of sunlight each morning keeps your sleep rhythm regular and works well to help burn those calories at night.

Sleep Tip: Have your breakfast outside in the morning, and get plenty of sunlight to help reset your internal biological clock.

Sleep loss affects weight loss, from your ability to burn calories to the food choices you make. Start with a commitment to sleeping better – and you may find yourself a few pounds lighter without changing anything else. Your body can naturally start making better food choices and wanting to get up and move, because you will be refreshed and energized every morning.

Understanding your sleep, and feeling empowered to be able to get the rest you know you need is amazing. You could find that sleep is the missing link to make any diet plan successful for you!

For extra help getting to sleep, try The Sleep Doctor’s Sleep Slim Smoothie.

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Presented by USANA.