Know how many calories are in that latte you’re drinking so you don’t doze off at your desk mid-afternoon? Well, probably a lot, but that’s not why you shouldn’t be drinking it. The real problem is that it might keep you up at night, when you should be getting a good eight to ten hours of shut-eye if you want to lose weight. Seriously!
You know all the reasons you should lose weight—for your health, for your self-esteem, for that dress you want to wear to your sister’s wedding—but let’s face it, dieting sucks. You’ve probably already done the counting calorie thing, the counting points thing, the counting reps on the free weights at the gym. And you’ve always hated math!
So here’s the solution: get more sleep.
I know, I know… you’re busy. There’s the job and the kids and the partner and the commute and the cooking and the laundry and the tweeting and keeping up on Facebook and maybe catching an episode of “Lost”—after all, it’s the last season. Well, there’s TIVO for that. Do you really want to lose weight? Then turn off the TV and shut down the computer an hour before you go to sleep. Do something low-tech, like taking a bath or reading a book. Wind down. Relax. Aaah, that’s better. Maybe you’ll be able to fall asleep without an Ambien and/or two glasses of wine.
The level of stress in your life may feel overwhelming, or maybe you just think that’s the way life is supposed to be and it feels normal to you. But the basic reason you gain weight and can’t lose it is due to the level of stress in your life and your ability to handle it. And one of the main reasons we’re all so stressed is simply because we’re not getting enough sleep!
Studies have shown that when you don’t get a full night’s beauty sleep, your fat cells—those nasty invaders into our psyche’s image of ourselves—secrete 18 percent less of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain that you have enough energy stored away and you don’t need another chocolate bar or a pint of mocha fudge. While that’s going on, your stomach is churning out too much of the hormone ghrelin—the hormone that stimulates appetite. In the studies, the people who slept the least amount of time were the most rotund.
The amount of sleep you need is different at different times in your life. Some people need to sleep less as they age, while others need more. Even though we no longer go to sleep when it gets dark and get up at dawn, our bodies still perform best when we are asleep before ten at night and get up before eight.
It may sound like an impossible dream, but sleeping the right number of hours for your individual body really will help you lose weight. And if a full night’s sleep isn’t in the cards for you, then learn how to take power naps. President Kennedy used to steal a number of ten to twenty-minute naps a day. If he found the time, so can you.
It may take a while—from six weeks to six months—for your body to catch up on all the zzz’s you’ve been missing, but eventually you’ll find your body’s best range of sleep time.
Of course there are other factors involved in handling the stress in our hectic lives, but even doing just this one thing—getting more sleep—is enough to make you lose some of that extra weight you’re carrying around like a brick in a backpack.