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Sleep Specialist Olivia Arezzolo on the link between sleep and weight loss

When it comes to sleep and weight loss, you may (or may not) have heard that lack of sleep is related to weight gain. Evidence of 197,906 individuals, presented in academic journal Sleep Medicine, highlights that shorter sleep duration indeed correlates with a higher BMI and obesity.

For anyone who’s training hard at the gym, watching what they eat and saying no to grandma’s apple slice, this is serious stuff. Essentially, research is suggesting if you want to lose weight easier, sleep more. Sound too good to be true? Read on for more.

First up, a recent study published in Current Biology found that sleep debt induces metabolic changes: you’re more likely to gain weight, crave sugar and need to eat more after dinner. Due to impaired insulin resistance, basically even if you’re eating sugar your body doesn’t process it – so you keep eating to get the energy hit you need. Even with a weekend sleep in, these factors are not reversed, so over time, those suffering lack of sleep during the week will, biologically, be more likely to experience difficulties with their weight.

Other research, featured in Annals of Internal Medicine, highlighted the difference of a few hours of sleep even more: participants on a calorie controlled diet lost 55% more body fat when they slept 8.5 hours rather than 5.5. Essentially, when the body doesn't sleep enough it secretes the stress hormone cortisol, which means the body breaks down muscle instead of fat. Scientists monitored their diet and movement religiously, and before you think it was individual difference – it wasn’t, because the same people were tested twice, just sleeping different lengths.

The fundamentals of healthy sleep

As a sleep specialist, I 100% encourage the fundamentals of healthy sleep – starting with a quality mattress. I love the Sealy range because it features a woollen layer, which acts as a thermoregulator – vital for quality rest. A study published in Journal of Physiological Anthropology notes a high core body temperature causes night time wakings, as it delays your secretion of melatonin, the hormone to make you sleepy. For anyone experiencing ongoing difficulty sleeping or in older age, the in-built vents within the Crown range will further enhance the temperature control too.

Alongside this, a specific night time routine is key: start with disconnecting from devices 60-90 minutes before bed. Rather than rely on yourself to remember, make this process easy by setting an alarm for 9 or 10pm - and make sure you do it! Evidence shows individuals using their phones in the evening are 217% more likely to lack sleep and 272% more likely to be tired throughout the day. It's not just the exposure to blue light: the research also pinpoints that screen time is linked to increased levels of mental activity, which translates to your mind being unable to switch off.
After that, make a cuppa of chamomile tea, which is scientifically proven to be a natural sedative, and finish the eve like Miranda Kerr and engage some meditation, and if you’re loved up, a cuddle with your partner.
Remember – by respecting the fundamentals above you not only sleep better, but you also make it easier for yourself to shed those last few Christmas kilos and reduce your cravings for sugar. Sounds dreamy, right?

This article was contributed by Olivia Arezzolo, Sleep Specialist (BSoSc - Psychology; Cert Sleep Psychology; Cert 3+4 Fitness; Dip Nut Medicine).

Sign up to her FREE 21 Days of Sleep Tips Series, highlighting a sample of the physiological, psychological and nutritional changes you can make to improve your sleep tonight, and energy levels tomorrow.

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