As if we needed another excuse to spend more time in bed, scientists have revealed that sleeping longer could be the key to losing weight.
According to a new study from researchers at King’s College London, those of us who snooze for an extra hour or so could end up consuming fewer sugars and carbohydrates.
The research, which is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at the feasibility of increasing sleep hours in adults who typically slept for less than the recommended minimum seven hours for adults.
Alongside this, the researchers undertook a pilot investigation that looked at the impact of increasing sleep hours on nutrient intake.
They found that extending sleep patterns resulted in a 10-gram reduction in reported intake of free sugars compared to baseline levels.
The researchers also noticed trends for reduced intake of total carbohydrates reported by the group who had extended sleep.
Commenting on the findings, lead author, Dr Wendy Hall, from the Department of Nutritional Sciences said: “The fact that extending sleep led to a reduction in intake of free sugars suggests that a simple change in lifestyle may really help people to consume healthier diets.”
How exactly does getting more shut-eye impact on our weight?
“When we sleep we burn most of our fat, so if we don’t sleep this can significantly affect weight loss,” explains Pippa Campbell, nutrition and weight loss expert.
“Previous research has found that a lack of sleep is linked to higher calorie intake and a higher risk of obesity, and so it’s no surprise that it can increase our sugar intake too – and that getting more sleep can help us cut down on the white stuff,” nutritionist, Cassandra Barns adds.
“This study provides even more evidence of the importance of sleep for our overall health and wellbeing. And when it comes to weight, rather than looking to complicated diet solutions or weight loss aids, maybe the first thing we need to do is get to bed on time, and spend more time resting!”
Thankfully, there are things we can do to get a better night’s kip and hopefully move a step closer to our weight loss goals.
1. Step away from the wine
“Alcohol may help you to get to sleep but it is likely to cause you to wake up throughout the night,” explains Dr. Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar. “It will affect your blood sugar so it can cause a drop in the middle of the night, and then adrenaline will be released causing you to wake.”
“Alcohol also has a diuretic effect on the body so it can wake you to go to the toilet but also leave you very thirsty,” Dr Glenville continues.
“Alcohol also stops the passage of tryptophan into your brain (see below) and it this amino acid which is converted into serotonin, the ‘feel good’ brain chemical.”
2. Banish the bed-time brain
If you’re a night time worrier (who isn’t?) and your mind goes into overdrive as soon as your head hits the pillow, Nutritionist Cassandra Barns suggests making the most of ‘nature’s tranquilliser’ – magnesium. “Magnesium can be effective in calming your nervous system, so try where possible to add magnesium rich foods to your diet,” she says.
3. Say no to starchy carbs and sugars before bed
“Starchy carbs and sugars will raise your blood sugar and delay sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep,” explains Pippa.
“However, if you are suffering with severe stress you may find that a pre-bedtime small protein/carb snack might help you to sleep. In these instances, I advise my clients to eat some almond butter on a small rye or gluten-free cracker.”
4. Smell your way to sleep
When you go to bed feeling relaxed you’re more likely to fall asleep easily and quickly. Marilyn suggests incorporating scented oils into your bedtime routine, “Try using aromatherapy oils such as bergamot, lavender, roman chamomile and marjoram in a warm bath, just before bed. A few drops of lavender oil on your pillow at bedtime can also help,” she says.
5. Get frisky
Sex might be the last thing you feel like if you’re dog tired, but actually getting it on can help you drift off.
“Sex can help you to get to sleep by relaxing you and releasing tension that may have built up during the day,” explains Marilyn.
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