Sleep Better, Lose Weight

March 20, 2013 at 11:04 am , by

Millions of women in America are chronically sleep deprived. Ladies, you know who you are! To make matters worse, a bunch of studies have linked not getting enough sleep with weight gain. One big Harvard study showed that women who slept just five hours a night were 32 percent more likely to gain at least 30 pounds than women who slept seven hours or longer. Over the 16 years of the study, the women who slept longer gained less weight—even when they ate more than the sleep-deprived women. Not fair, is it?

An interesting new study, summarized well in this New York Times column yesterday, showed that sleep-deprived folks eat more calories overall and especially overeat those comforting carbs that pack on the pounds.

I thought about all this as I was lying awake at 2 a.m. this morning. (Was anyone else there with me?) Yes, I toss and turn sometimes, too—even though I have a lot of good-sleep tricks up my sleeve. A few years ago I co-authored a sleep book for women. It’s called Sleep To Be Sexy Smart and Slim. (I don’t make any money on the book; it was just part of my job to work on it.) Anyway, here are a few tips from it that have really stuck with me:


1. Wind down for an hour. So many women just keep going, and going, and going. Then you’re too wound up to drift off. Give yourself the gift of an hour with no more chores, no exercise (unless it’s sex, which does help you sleep better), no stimulating TV news or drama, no catching up on work, no major “we’ve got a problem” conversations and most of all, no electronics. Yes, you can turn off your laptop and phone. Play soft music, read something light, let it all go.

2. Have some milk and cookies. When I was doing publicity for the book, this tip was always a favorite of the bleary-eyed morning-show hosts who interviewed me. There’s real science behind it: The chemical tryptophan in milk will help you feel sleepy, but you need some carbs to get it where it needs to go in the brain. A small (low-fat) cookie or two does the job well—plus, you feel nurtured like a child, too.

3. Chill out. Lowering the temperature in your bedroom helps signal your body that it’s time to sleep. Taking a hot bath sounds like a cliché but it helps, too, by lowering your core body temp afterward. A cooler room may help keep hot flashes at bay, too, if you’re in that joyful stage of life.

4. Make it dark. Sometimes your eyes open a bit as you move from one stage of sleep to another, and any kind of light can wake you up, whether it’s streetlights or the display on your digital clock. It’s worth investing in blackout curtain liners. Turn your clock face away so you can’t see it (or obsess over it if you do wake up). And put some dark electrical tape over all those LED displays on your computer, TV, cable box, etc. Darkness can make all the difference.

5. Let go of your worries. This one’s my favorite. It sounds a little corny but it works. Keep a small notebook and pen on your nightstand and consider it your “worry book.” When you can’t settle your buzzing brain down, or wake up anxious about work or money in the middle of the night, grab it. Write down what’s bugging you and any strategies and priorities for dealing with it. Then close the book and give yourself permission to let it go until daytime. Put it aside and go to sleep.

Pleasant dreams!

Photo copyright Africa Studio,