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Want to Lose Weight? Get Better Sleep

The new findings make sense to Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleepand the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Ariz.

Leptin and ghrelin are two key hormones involved in modulating appetite, he explains. Leptin is the "stop" hormone that tells you to stop eating when you are full; ghrelin is the "go" hormone that tells you to keep eating.

"When you are not getting enough sleep, leptin, the stop hormone, goes down, and ghrelin, the go hormone, increases," he says. Less "stop" and more "go" can result in weight gain or prevent weight loss, Breus explains.

"The more time you sleep, the less time you have to eat," he adds.

"If you are trying to lose weight, make sleep a priority, and make sure get more than seven hours of sleep per night," he says.

Improving sleep hygiene can help.

"Don't eat for four hours before bed because sleeping slows your metabolism," he says. "Don't drink any caffeine after 2:30 p.m., and use the bedroom only for sleeping," Breus says.

"Exercise is good for weight loss and better sleep, just don't do it right before bed because it may keep you up at night," he says.

"If you are trying to diet and combine it with something that switches your metabolism so that you start losing protein instead of fat, it will be harder to diet, and you will have to diet harder to get the same benefit," says David M. Rapoport, MD, an associate professor of medicine and the director of Sleep Medicine Program at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City.

Still, "You can't substitute getting more sleep for less diet and exercise, but for any given effort, you will get more bang for your buck by being rested," he says.

The current 24/7 society where people are eternally connected and sleep loss is considered a badge of honor may play a role in the obesity epidemic, Rapoport says. "It is not the underlying cause of why we are becoming an obese society, but it may play a role."

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