How To Sleep For Weight Loss, And Eat For A Good Night’s Sleep

Read the original article on Huff Post.

There is plenty of scientific data suggesting that a lack of sleep may alter important hormones that are responsible for hunger and fullness. The newest study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, goes even a step further and suggests from the findings that lack of sleep even effects whether you lose muscle or fat (fat is preferred of course) when you’re trying to lose weight.

The fact is, I’m sure most of you reading this don’t need the science to convince you of this. After a night of not getting enough sleep, you notice it. You wake up hungry and oddly enough, you remain that way most of the day without ever feeling satisfied. If you’re a regular in the lack of sleep department, you may have noticed that over time, the pounds have piled on. Need I say more to convince you how important sleep is or even how important it is that you provide yourself with opportunities to obtain the recommended eight hours of sleep? Well just as important as sleep has on your food intake, your food intake may effect how likely you are to fall asleep as well!

  • Pigging out on fat-laden foods before bed time is great way to ensure that sleep won’t happen. Instead, focus on lighter meals with an appropriate mix of carbohydrates (which has a calming effect on the body as it effects serotonin levels) and protein (stick with Tryptophan-rich sources).
  • A study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a carbohydrate-based high glycemic meal resulted in a significant shortening of sleep onset in healthy patients when consumed four hours before bedtime. (Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 85, No. 2, 426-430, February 2007). High glycemic means high sugar so best to stay away from the candy, cookies, cakes and white bread before bedtime.

Turkey anyone? Have you ever felt like a nap right after Thanksgiving dinner? It is actually all in your head … your brain that is. Turkey contains Tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid (that means you have to get it in your diet because your body does not produce it on your own) that your body uses to make serotonin. You need serotonin for a good night’s sleep so it makes sense that eating foods that contain Tryptophan may be a good idea for a restful slumber. Although current research indicates that your typical turkey dinner doesn’t actually provide enough Tryptophan to induce sleep, getting some in your diet can’t hurt. Examples include:

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Low fat cheese
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Soy and tofu
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Eggs
  • Keep it spicy if your intent for the bed is sex, otherwise, forget it. Individuals prone to heartburn should stay away from spicy foods several hours prior to bedtime. That’s because lying down may be uncomfortable — even painful in the sternum region making sleep more difficult.
  • Enjoy your coffee, but only in the first half of the day. Caffeine is a stimulant so the second that coffee hits your system, your body reacts by making you more alert and energetic. Does that sound like a prescription for quality sleep?
  • Alcohol: Although having a drink or two may initially give you the zzz’s, the effect may not last the entire night and the chances of sleep disturbance (waking up mid sleep, headache) are much higher.

And don’t forget some other equally important sleep factors:

Stress Management: Poor management of one’s stress may have a significant effect on sleep quality and quantity. Think of the last time you had a stressful day at work and just couldn’t fall asleep when your head hit the pillow, even though you were exhausted.

Smoking: Not that you need yet another reason to quit but if you’re looking for it, here is it! Smoking has been shown to negatively affect sleep habits (and by the way, it also increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension and cancer).

Bedroom basics: You’ve heard it before. Sleep in a comfortable temperature making sure the bedroom is not too hot and not too cool. Get a comfortable mattress and nix the TV, magazine reading and kids and pets in the bed. These things can only interfere with quality sleep.

Try these techniques for a few weeks and see if you find yourself getting more meaningful sleep. You brain, your body and your skinny jeans will thank you for it!

Follow Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., L.D. on

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