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If You Sleep More, Will You Weigh Less?

Sleep could be just as important to maintaining ideal weight as what you eat and how much you exercise. Brenda Watson, C.N.C., author of The Fiber35 Diet, explains why getting eight hours is critical to maintaining your metabolism and offers tips on natural sleep aids.

Metabolic Booster: Eight Hours of Sleep
If you sleep more, will you weigh less? The body of evidence that says yes continues to grow, proving that sleep could be just as important to maintaining ideal weight as what you eat and how much you exercise.

Our knowledge about the power of sleep has become clearer in recent years. In late 2004, studies began to emerge that showed a strong connection between one’s sleep patterns and one’s ability to lose weight, igniting a new public interest in sleep. Two groundbreaking studies in particular — one from the University of Chicago and the other from Stanford University — demonstrated the effects of sleep on the balance between two important hormones that tell you whether you are hungry or full.

One of these hormones — leptin — is released by fat cells to indicate the level of fat stores available to the body. The other hormone — ghrelin — is released by the stomach to signal hunger. So leptin says, “Stop eating,” whereas ghrelin says, “Feed me.” When you are sleep­deprived, leptin levels are reduced and ghrelin levels increase. A lower leptin level tells your body that you do not have enough fat stored, and a higher ghrelin level tells your body that you are hungry. Together, they send signals to the brain that the body needs more energy, and the brain then creates signals that typically result in your storming the kitchen and eating a lot. Since those first studies, many others have been published that also show the damaging effects sleep deprivation can have on metabolism and one’s ability to curb cravings. If you’ve ever had a hard time controlling cravings for sugary snacks and carbs after a bad night’s sleep, you may be able to blame it on your lack of sleep and the resulting imbalance of appetite hormones rushing through you.

Aside from these hormonal factors, however, there’s a practical relationship between sleep and weight loss that deserves note. Face it: when you don’t get enough sleep, your energy is lower during the day. This can negatively influence two factors — food consumption and physical activity. When the body feels tired from a lack of sleep, it seeks to increase energy by consuming food. This is when cravings for salt, fat, and sugar hit hard. And when you are tired, you’ll be likely to engage in less physical activity, further slowing down your metabolism.

The bottom line is that getting a full eight hours of sleep is critical to maintaining your metabolism — no matter in which phase of the diet you are. If possible, increase your sleep to nine hours in Phase One and Phase Two. I know that this much time is hard to find, but if you choose sleep over television or reading during these phases, your metabolism will thank you and your weight loss will improve.

Nutritional Supplement Tip: Natural Sleep Aid
Many people today have difficulty falling asleep or sleeping through the night. Some opt for sleeping pills, which may help in the short term but pose many risks in the long term, including chemical or psychological dependency. Interestingly, one major conclusion from all the studies is that insomniacs are better off without sleeping pills than with them.

There are safe alternatives to sleeping pills, however. You can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep by using a well-­formulated nutritional supplement that features a combination of proven vitamin, mineral, herbal, and other natural ingredients to support your sleep cycle naturally and safely. Look for a formula that contains the ingredients described below. (Remember that with any supplement it’s important to consult your physician before starting a regimen, especially if you take any prescription medication that could potentially conflict with ingredients in the supplement.)

Minerals in such a formula include calcium and magnesium, both of which have a calming effect on your brain. Magnesium deficiency has been shown to produce sleeplessness by altering electrical activity in the brain. Calcium helps convert the amino acid tryptophan to melatonin, a natural hormone that can make you sleepy. A formula that also contains a small amount of melatonin, which is naturally secreted by the pineal gland at night to help us sleep, can be particularly effective in regulating cycles of waking and sleeping. The addition of 5-HTP, a direct precursor to the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, can help, too. Serotonin not only is known to enhance sleep but also helps to combat depression, as well as to aid in weight loss by helping to regulate appetite.

Two members of the B vitamin family — niacin and inositol — play an important role in helping us sleep. Like other members of the B family, these vitamins help reduce anxiety, which can keep us awake at night. Niacin also aids sleep through its role in synthesizing serotonin. Inositol also helps regulate this important neurotransmitter.

There are a number of herbs on the market that can safely be used to improve sleep quality through a mild sedative effect. These include valerian root, passionflower, hops, lemon balm, chamomile, and skullcap.

Brenda Watson, C.N.C., is the bestselling author of The Fiber35 Diet: Nature’s Weight Loss Secret (Copyright © 2007 by Brenda Watson) and The Detox Strategy: Vibrant Health in 5 Easy Steps and is one of the foremost dietary authorities in America today. She has gained national recognition with her televised PBS special, Brenda Watson’s H.O.P.E. Formula: The Ultimate Health Secret. Ms. Watson has two grown children and currently lives in Florida with her husband, Stan, and their dogs.





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