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Jamie Joyner, St. Luke's Hospital

Losing weight and getting plenty of sleep go hand in hand

Is sleep low on your priority list? Research shows that women with poor sleep patterns are more likely to have weight issues than their well-rested peers. If you are trying to lose weight, you may want to reprioritize your sleep schedule.

We already know that lack of sleep can cause increased production of your hunger hormone (ghrelin), causing increased hunger after a short night's sleep. Research has shown that calorie consumption tends to increase with lack of sleep and our hunger hormone makes us crave more carb-rich foods.

Even when calorie levels are closely monitored, inadequate sleep can still alter metabolism and make weight loss difficult in a sleep-deprived state. Middle-aged women are particularly vulnerable when it comes to sleep and weight gain. Recent research showed that women sleeping five hours or less a night gained more weight than women sleeping seven hours a night.

A new study published by the University of California, Berkeley, shows that sleep deprivation also alters brain function. Just one night of sleep deprivation can lead to impaired activity in the brain's decision-making center and increased activity in the reward center of the brain. This makes you more likely to reach for potato chips or cookies instead of fruits and vegetables after a sleepless night.

How can you make sure that your sleep isn't affecting weight loss?
  • Establish a routine. Go to bed and get up around the same time each day, and do similar activities each night to help your body learn to wind down. Limit electronics in your bedtime ritual. They have been shown to interfere with sleep.
  • Time your evening food and beverage intake. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake before bed. Both can affect sleep quality. Don't go to bed hungry because a growling stomach can wake you up, but at the same time, don't eat a large meal just before bed.
  • Get regular physical activity. Just make sure you aren't exercising right before bed because the post-exercise vigor can keep you from falling asleep.
Make those nighttime ZZZ's work for you and not against you.

Jamie Joyner, RD, LD, HFS, is a registered and licensed dietitian and an ACSM Certified Health Fitness Specialist for St. Luke's Hospital. To learn more about the Healthy Weigh Program taught by Jamie, call 314-205-6483 or visit the Wellness Programs and Screenings page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on September 5, 2013.

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