Wouldn’t it be great if you could just shed unwanted pounds while you slept soundly in your bed each night? It might sound far-fetched, but according to Dr. Michael Breus it is entirely possible. In fact, he recently shared this idea of a “sleep diet” with Glamour Magazine, and together they did a study on a group of women to see how much weight they really could lose while catching their Zs. The results were quite remarkable. The women were encouraged not to change their diet or exercise habits, and instead get a solid 7.5 hours of sleep each night. Ten weeks later, the women had lost anywhere from three to 15 pounds! Dr. Breus says everyone was quite surprised, some were really shocked and some enjoyed significantly more energy.
The idea of this sleep diet comes from his book “Beauty Sleep,” the paperback version of an earlier title “Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.” When asked why 7.5 hours is the magic number, he explains to DietsInReview.com that the average sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes, and the average person has five of these cycles each night. Basic math puts you at 7.5 hours as the ideal amount of sleep necessary to let your body lose weight. Any additional sleep is beneficial, but you will not lose any more weight. “More sleep doesn’t make a tremendous difference,” Breus says.
He also suggests that on the whole our nation is sleep deprived, and it’s this deprivation that is aiding our growing obesity epidemic. He says “sleep is not the cure [for obesity], but I definitely think it’s a contributing factor.” We asked if sleep had any positive influence on childhood obesity and his response was that there isn’t a great answer to that yet. He says they do know that when kids are sleep deprived, there are signs of weight gain, however, more research in this area is still needed.
Why is sleep so important? Getting enough quality sleep affects your weight, as well as other health issues. When you’re getting that 7.5 hours of quality sleep each night, he says everything from circulation to a reduction in blood pressure (or hypertension) will be enjoyed, as well as weight loss. When you’re sleep deprived, he explains that the metabolism slows and you get more of some hormones and less of others. Ghrelin is the “go” hormone, it tells you to eat, and leptin is the “stop” hormone, it tells you to stop eating. “It’s a pretty bad situation when you have more go and not enough stop,” explains Breus, and it’s this discrepancy in hormone levels that prevents us from losing and enables us to gain weight. In fact, when we’re feeling sleep deprived, he referenced a study from the University of Chicago in which they found people are more likely to choose high-fat, high-carb foods over healthier choices.
How do we achieve this ideal 7.5 hours of sleep each night? Breus explains that “sleep is a sensory experience, and requires all five senses to have a good night’s rest.” He says these five bedroom essentials correlate with our five senses and are necessary to sleep soundly.
- Light: A dark room is necessary. Use window shades to block light and bedside lamps should have a 40 watt or less bulb.
- Sound: He says if you’re sleeping next to a snorer, you’re losing an hour of sleep each night. Snoring is affecting your health as much as it is your bed mate (as snoring is a sign of sleep apnea). Try a sound machine or ear plugs to mask the noise.
- Touch: The mattress, box spring and even pillow you sleep on are imperative. Breus says we should shop for mattresses much like we would exercise equipment – shop for features and not price.
- Smell: Aromatherapy really does work. “You don’t just sniff something and passout,” he says, but having a relaxing aroma in the room will cause a relaxation response in the brain.
- Taste: Cut-off caffeine consumption by 2:30 p.m., and limit alcoholic beverages to one or two at dinner. Try not to eat too closely to bed, especially spicy foods. This can have an effect on the quality of sleep, affect dreams and even cause GERD, all because we were not meant to digest foods lying down.
Dr. Breus also says “I love naps!,” and encourages people to get in a nap if they can, especially if they’re falling behind in their sleep. He does not, however, recommend naps for insomniacs, saying it’s the worst thing for them. A quality nap should either be no more than 25 minutes, as to not start and stop a sleep cycle, or for a full 90 minutes, to allow you to complete one full sleep cycle.
Bottom line, when you combine a healthy and balanced diet, regular exercise and consistently sleep for at least 7.5 hours each night, Dr. Breus says you’ve found the trifecta for weight loss becoming known as the sleep diet.