When it comes to losing weight, most people find it hard to change the eating (and exercise) behaviors that got them into trouble in the first place.
Did you know that the amount that you sleep can have a direct effect on whether you’re a healthy weight, or significantly overweight? Do you know the miminum hours of sleep that you need to give yourself the best chance at succeeding with your (ideally healthy and enjoyable, please!) weight loss program?
According to an article by sleep expert Dr. Charles L. Samuels, which I clipped a while ago from the Canadian Journal of Diagnosis (I’ve been meaning to share this with you for quite some time), we humans used to sleep an average of 9 hours a night in the early 1900’s. Today, the average night’s sleep is only 7 hours a night. I’ve often wondered why I seem to need 8-9 hours, ideally – looks like it might actually be normal for our bodies.
According to Dr. Samuels, we need 7-8 hours just to be able to function “normally” in the daytime. Oops! I only got 6 last night; I stayed up late because I’d gotten 9 hours the night before. I’m a night owl, and seem to think that after a major sleep-a-thon I can get away with less the next night, but I’m actually really sabotaging my health, mood and productivity by doing that.
Did you know that being a “night owl” can actually make you more likely to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder? And if you develop SAD, you will likely experience food cravings for carbohydrates that can actually account for the phenomenon of “winter weight gain”. Yikes! So, if you’re a night owl, going to bed earlier will not only help protect your good mood in winter, but will also protect you from gaining those extra pounds.
Also, chronically limiting your sleep is directly linked to weight gain. If you only sleep 6 hours a night, you’re almost 25% more likely to be obese (not just overweight, but obese) than someone who’s getting 8 hours a night. Which person do you want to be?
Dr. Samuels gave some tips for peple struggling with losing weight:
- get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and catch up on “sleep debt” on the weekends
- eat a big breakfast, eat a lesser lunch, and eat lightly at dinner. Eat more protein with breakfast, and continue to make sure you get enough protein throughout the day, as it will help suppress your appetite
- walk 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week
Does that sound easy or what? Much more enjoyable (and sustainable) than some of those crazy, complex diet plans that are out there. Now stop reading this, and get to bed!
does it matter what time you go to bed as long as you get a minimum of 8 hrs?
For example, can I go to bed at 2am and rise at 11am without any problems?
Hi Christine – thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and for a great question. According to the expert in the article that I quoted, it’s best to go to bed earlier rather than later. Apparently, people who go to bed later (“night owls”) are more prone to develop the brain chemical imbalance called “seasonal affective disorder”, which can increase your appetite and make you crave carbohydrates. As an additional note, I’m not an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine but I’ve heard repeatedly that TCM practitioners claim that the hours of sleep before midnight are much more healing than the hours of sleep after midnight, e.g. the body rests more deeply. I’m a night owl, and constantly work to try to get to bed earlier!
I am 12 years old, but I am not overweight. I usually go to bed at around 10:30 or 11 pm. I do crave things like potato chips and popcorn right before I go to bed. I wake up at around 6:30 am for school, but I feel tired; I seemingly can’t go to bed any earlier than this. I don’t have depression, and I get all A’s in school. I don’t have any diagnosed diseases, and my dad is a doctor, so he would know if I did. Do you know why this is?
Hi Christina, thanks very much for your comment. You sound like a very intelligent 12 year old! First, that blog post was really written for adults – growing kids/teens generally need more sleep than adults do, so 7.5-8 hours may very well not be enough for you. Like many adults, you may simply have gotten into the habit of being a “night owl”, going to bed later than you really should be. Have you talked to your dad the doctor about your sleep problems? You probably should have your parents take you to your own doctor or paediatrician as well, to talk about this. It’s really important, particularly at your age, that you get enough sleep. FYI, I just published an article on this site with some tips to improve sleep: click on the link at the end of this comment, to read it. All the best and good luck! Susan [URL=http://www.susanbiali.com/health-and-nutrition/improve-your-sleep-lose-weight-feel-better-look-better-live-better.html]Improve Your Sleep – article[/URL]
So…I’m not exactly sure how to define myself…but basically I’ve been staying up until about 3-6am every day for the past 3 years…and I don’t get sick often (twice a year is a regular)…and I have full on energy when I wake up around 10-2. I honestly don’t believe it matters what time of the day you go to sleep…but…I could be wrong
Thanks very much for taking the time to let us know about your experience. It sounds like you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, which is the basic amount the body needs. That’s good, and is much better than going to bed so late and then getting up early. People’s body clocks can be reset to go to bed and wake up at different times, and some people are natural “night owls”. However, some research has shown that with respect to certain health issues (for example, seasonal affective disorder, as mentioned in my blog post, and possibly the speed of aging), it may be more beneficial to re-set your clock to go to bed earlier. I heard Oprah’s Dr.Oz say the other day, in a speech on health, that late night computer use can suppress melatonin secretion by the pineal gland, which means you produce less growth hormone (and age faster) when you do eventually go to bed. If in general you’re experiencing great health and have lots of energy, and your night owl schedule doesn’t affect your life in any negative way, it’s probably not a big deal.
Hey Susan, I love your website! I recently joined the gym but I’m one of those late night owls who is often awake till 1-2am writing, reading etc.
Been trying to get to bed earlier each day but never manage more than 7 hours … and I know my body craves more, more, more.
Do you have an article for insomniacs? Even when I get to bed at a decent time, my mind won’t quit till the wee hours and after reading this article I’m even more determined to get my share of shut eye!
Great idea this, it very instructive for me. I never comment on those blogs, even when the content is great..
Thanks for the great post! There have always been the misconception that less sleep can help people get thinner. Thanks for giving shedding some light on this. I have also read that sleep deprivation may cause weight gain because it affects how our bodies process and store carbohydrates. Are these the only reasons why people gain weight when deprived of sleep?
Thanks again for the enlightening post. 🙂
Hi, i just turned 13 and every night for the past month i have been going to sleep at 12, and gettig up at 7 or 6, if i start to change that now, will i be okay? 🙂
Hi I have prescribed meds for depression and it also helps me sleep!! I take them like 2 or 3 hours before i go to bed but they usally don’t kick in till about 12:00 or 1:00!! Last night i took them at 8:30 and i got tired so i went to bed around 8:58 but i couldn’t fall asleep until almost 12:00 i set my alarm clock for 8:00 am and i got up but later in the day i got tired!! Could that be because i’m used to sleeping fr 10 to 9 hours a night!!
Hello Christina !
I am 55 years old and have been a night owl my entire life. I eat all natural, organic food, take daily 45 minute walks in nature and sleep about 9 hours a night. I rarely get sick, and have tons of energy. I weigh the same 115 lbs, (size 4) I did in high school and am very fit . Most people guess my age to be mid to late 30s and want to know my secret.
It is this: Aside from the obvious healthy choices, as an artist, I am fortunate enough to follow my own internal rhythm.
I believe that throughout evolution, there were those of us who had to be up late to watch out for the lions and tigers and bears ! Also, there were the babies being born, and the sick to tend. Farming which requires daylight, has only been around for 10,000 years. We were nomadic, long before this; hunting and gathering! I believe It serves our survival to have both day and night souls ! Perhaps the real reason research does not find as many healthy night owls is because they are not in sync with our structured work world and cannot take care of there sleep needs as well, nor function when they do their best (these are real stressors!)
I NEVER write these things but I am so tired of the way \’science\’ fails to explore all the variables. I would prefer a night owl to do my emergency care at 3am, and not DR.OZ!!!!!
Look forward to the day night owls are better understood and hence, appreciated!
As a fellow night owl, I enjoyed your post Erika! And this made me chuckle:
“I would prefer a night owl to do my emergency care at 3am, and not DR.OZ!!!!!”
Also, since this post first appeared, there is now the f.lux app that adjusts the color temperature of your screen to help you sleep better, whenever you may retire. I wouldn’t want to be without it now.
impressive health post. The points which you mentioned here is really helpful for all readers of this post. It has got it all, information, benefits and overview. A perfect piece of writing. Good job …
Some things that help people sleep through the night are cardiovascular exercise during the day and also having a relaxation/meditation practice before going to sleep. Also avoid alcohol and caffeine and avoid drinking anything right before bed (so you don’t wake up having to go to the washroom!)
Thanks for this Blog as well as the interesting Questions and Replies.
I try to be in bed by 10pm most nights but I wake up a few times during the night.
Every night I wake up at 3am for a few years now and around 1am sometimes too.
How can I stop this from happening so that I have a full nights sleep?
All comments and suggestions will be appreciated 🙂
Iam 28 yrs female. My problem is sleeping disorder at mid night around 2:30 most of the time due to poor blood circulation. i go to sleep when i felt very sleepy most of the time at around 10:00 but i wake up at the mid night at 2;30 sometime around 3:00 as well so i wake up go to toilet ,drink water and sometime i jump in order to get tired and again i go for bed, if i sleep after going again bed the next morning i feel fresh if i couldn\’t sleep i couldn\’t feel active, fresh, my movement become slow, i loose my concentration, also i feel my memory power is decreasing .So i will be happy if i get some tips to get rid from these problem. I feel if i have sound and good sleep i will be very healthy person.
Thanks for speaking up for us night owls so articulately and eloquently 🙂
So what time should we go to bed?