Chronic sleep loss, social jet lag, and shift work—widespread in our modern 24/7 societies—are associated with an increased risk of numerous metabolic pathologies, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes (1–4). Even minor weekly shifts in sleep timing, or as few as five consecutive nights of short sleep, have been associated with an increased risk of weight gain in healthy humans (1).
According to another study, chronically sleep-restricted adults with late bedtimes may be more susceptible to weight gain due to greater daily caloric intake and the consumption of calories during late-night hours. (2)
So to stay healthy and prevent weight gain the best thing you can do is focus on strategies to improve sleep quality and get more ZZZ time. Just follow these simple steps recommended by the Sleep Foundation (3):
- Limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes. Napping does not make up for inadequate nighttime sleep. However, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness and performance.
- Avoiding using stimulants like caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. And when it comes to alcohol, moderation is key. While alcohol is well-known to help you fall asleep faster, too much close to bedtime can disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol.
- Exercise to promote good quality sleep. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality. For the best night’s sleep, most people should avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime. However, the effect of intense nighttime exercise on sleep differs from person to person, so find out what works best for you.
- Stay away from foods that can be disruptive right before sleep. Heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion for some people. When this occurs close to bedtime, it can lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep.
- Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for individuals who may not venture outside frequently. Exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night, helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Establishing a regular relaxing bedtime routine. A regular nightly routine helps the body recognize that it is bedtime. This could include taking warm shower or bath, reading a book, or light stretches. When possible, try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before attempting to sleep.
- Making sure that your sleep environment is pleasant. Mattress and pillows should be comfortable. The bedroom should be cool – between 20 and 24 degrees – for optimal sleep. Bright light from lamps, cell phone and TV screens can make it difficult to fall asleep, so turn those light off or adjust them when possible. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices that can make the bedroom more relaxing.
Body & Bone
1. Cedernaes, J., Schönke, M., Westholm, J. O., Mi, J., Chibalin, A., Voisin, S., … Benedict, C. (2018). Acute sleep loss results in tissue-specific alterations in genome-wide DNA methylation state and metabolic fuel utilization in humans. Science advances, 4(8), eaar8590. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aar8590
2. Spaeth, A. M., Dinges, D. F., & Goel, N. (2013). Effects of Experimental Sleep Restriction on Weight Gain, Caloric Intake, and Meal Timing in Healthy Adults. Sleep, 36(7), 981–990. doi:10.5665/sleep.2792