What if you could lose weight by sleeping differently? Or what if, at the very least, you could sleep better by sleeping differently? Both of those options sound good to me! So . . . how can you make it happen?
First, let’s take a look at some background on the topic, as outlined by Carolyn Coker Ross, M.D., MPH, at the 9th Annual Nutrition and Health Conference, held recently in Boston.
The Power of Sleep
Study upon study have already shown links between a good night’s sleep and losing weight; but the correlation may never have been taken to the level reached by Dr. Michael Breus, a board certified sleep expert and clinical psychologist. Calling this unique diet the “Sleep Doctor’s Diet,” Breus outlined a plan to shed pounds by changing the way you look at sleep.
Breus’s premise behind the sleep-weight correlation is multi-faceted. He purports that inadequate sleep results in inadequate levels of growth hormone, which ultimately results in your body storing fat and weight gain. Inadequate sleep can also result in an increased appetite. When you don’t get enough sleep, your metabolic rate slows, and your appetite-controlling hormones (leptin and ghrelin) are affected.
In regards to other health, lack of sleep or poor sleep can result in such health conditions as hypertension, depression, anxiety, short-term memory loss, decreased immunity, skin problems, and even infertility . . . just to name a few.
Your Sleep Debt
When you get only a small amount of sleep one night, you may be inclined to sleep in the day after, as a way to kind of “make up” for lost sleep. Or, like me, you may relish your weekends as a way to catch up on lost sleep from the previous week. Unfortunately, the reality is that this “sleep debt” which gets accumulated from losing sleep cannot be repaid through longer sleep the following day. In fact, studies have shown that lost sleep can never truly be gained back, and instead your sleep debt will accumulate over time.
The diet is specifically designed to be used by women. And even though the major focus is on sleep, other aspects of dieting are also covered, including diet and nutrition, hygiene, and exercise. In addition to losing weight, results may include reduced stress.
The diet is rather easy to follow, and the lessons learned can be used throughout your lifetime. The entire plan can be broken down into five simple rules:
- Get sunlight, first thing in the morning.
- Don’t drink caffeine after 2 p.m.
- Don’t drink alcohol within three (3) hours of going to sleep.
- Don’t exercise within four (4) hours of bedtime.
- Most importantly: Stick to the sleep schedule every single night of the week, without fail.
In regards to food and sleep, Dr. Breus recommends that in order to lose weight you eat meals high in both protein and fiber every 3-4 hours, but not after 7 p.m., and eliminate all sodas and juices. He suggests using olive oil instead of butter. And to sleep well, the doctor recommends eating whole grains (instead of white flour), and make sure your night-time snacks consist of complex carbs, dense protein and calcium.
Several other tips are put forth, including playing music before falling asleep (60-80 beats per minute), meditation, yoga, self-massage, and taking several vitamins and minerals specifically for sleep like vitamin B3, B6, B12, D, and Folate, as well as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc. Also, certain herbs and spices may be helpful in such as kava, lavender, valerian, chamomile, nutmeg, turmeric, garlic, parsley, dill, sage, and basil. The plan even jumps on the sour cherry juice train, and suggests that it can aid in good sleep.
Not only will the Sleep Doctor’s diet plan help to develop a healthy sleep pattern that may help you drop pounds of fat, but it will also leave you feeling refreshed, energetic, and overall much more cheerful via a great night’s sleep. It certainly has a few flaws, though. First, dieters may not want to stick to this plan exclusively, because it puts way too much emphasis on the sleep aspect of it and frankly, not enough on the other parts of health and wellness – nutrition and exercise.
And, while sleep debt can certainly contribute to obesity, it is definitely not the only reason it happens. The lack of focus on nutrition, which many would argue is the most important part of any diet, causes this diet to appear limited; and shows that controlled sleep schedules would better serve as a supplement to other diets.
Overall, the Sleep Doctor’s Diet capitalizes on the importance of sleeping well, and draws inspiration from the countless studies surrounding the topic. The simplicity of it makes it easy for anyone to jump right in and try it out for themselves without a huge monetary investment. And the results may leave you partly satisfied, even if it won’t completely rid you of all the weight you originally planned on losing.
Coker-Ross, M.D., MPH, Carolyn. "The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan by Michael Breuss, PhD.” 9th Annual Nutrition and Health Conference. Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, Boston, MA. 16 April 2012.