Of all the magic bullets for losing a pound or two, nothing is easier on your body than this: get a little more sleep.
A study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine reports that increasing sleep could decrease your weight even if you don’t cut calories, exercise, or.
The results of a two-year experiment came from following 80 overweight adults. They ranged from BMI’s (body masses indexes) of 25.9 to 29.9—slightly above the ideal to just short of obese. In other words, people with bodies like millions of us. Their ages ran from 21 to 40.
At the beginning of the study, the average sleep length for the groups was 6.5 hours. The researchers helped half the participants learn to sleep longer. Without doing anything else, the people who extended their sleep time lost weight.
The average “long sleeper” clocked an extra hour and 12 minutes of sleep per night and consumed 270 fewer calories per day. Enough to lead to a 26-pound loss over three years. Just by getting a good night’s sleep.
Most Americans have trouble with that. In most of the US, about 40% of us fail to get 7 or more hours of sleep per night. The only region that sleeps enough overall is a swath of states in the American West. .
How Sleep Helps
You may be “at rest” when you’re asleep, but your body is doing some serious repair work. During sleep it clears “gunk” from the brain and helps restore cellular health.
Sleep helps you fight inflammation better and improves your immune function.
But the most important point about sleep is that when you don’t get it, your body tends to start doing the wrong things. It pours out too much cortisol, the stress hormone. Your blood pressure can be affected. You may have difficulty learning because your brains is not consolidating new memories. You can even have poorer balance.
And Lack of Sleep Hurts
The CDC has data on several conditions that suffer when your sleep falls short. Some of these numbers are small, but put them in perspective.
The difference between 3.5% and 4.8% is actually a 41% increase. That’s easier to envision if you think about a handful of marbles. If you had three marbles, each one is 33% of your holdings. So every extra one you add would increase your stash by 33%--even though it’s “only one” marble.
So this table should make it clear how important sleep can be and how the lack of proper sleep raises your risk for heart attacks, stroke, asthma, cancer, arthritis, kidney disease and depression.
It’s not always easy to increase your sleep. But if you are resisting going to bed too soon because it seems lazy, give yourself a break. Your body needs to get to work… and it needs its sleep to do it right. Even, maybe to lose weight.