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Sleep More, Weigh Less: the link Between Sleep and Weight Loss

Sleep and weight loss: 12 Sleep Secrets That Can Help You Lose Weight continued...

Improve your sleep environment. It's not just the quantity of sleep that counts; it's also the quality, says Lombardo, so make your sleep environment a sanctuary. Block light with thick curtains or blackout shades, and muffle noise with ear plugs or a white noise machine. If seeing your alarm clock makes you stressed, turn it around or cover it up before you go to bed. If you're often awakened by late night phone calls, turn off your ringer or disconnect the phone.

Reserve the bedroom for bedtime. The demands of modern life make it easy -- even essential -- to multitask, with the result that many people do everything in bed except sleep. Resist the temptation to bring your laptop or cell phone into bed to check the internet or send text messages. Reserving your bedroom for sleep and sex will help your body associate the room with relaxation and release, as opposed to work or entertainment, Epstein tells WebMD.

Nurture close connections. Lonely days may lead to restless nights, University of Chicago researchers report. In a study of 89 students and 25 older adults, researchers found that, although lonely and non-lonely subjects spent about the same amount of time in bed, those who reported being lonely slept 5.8 hours on average, while non-lonely subjects slept 6.4 hours. A more recent study by the same authors found that lonely people slept less efficiently and spent more time lying awake in bed. If you are lonely, take steps to establish closer ties with family members, engage in activities that help you make new friends, or consider getting a pet.

Nix the nightcap. Alcohol is the No. 1 aid people use to help them fall asleep, Lombardo tells WebMD. And it works -- but only for half the night. As your body metabolizes the alcohol (at a rate of half a pint of beer or a glass of wine per hour), its sleep-inducing powers wear off. At that point, you'll be awakened -- often with a full bladder. Drinking too close to bedtime can also make sleep problems (like sleep apnea, snoring, and insomnia) and stomach problems (like acid reflux and GERD) worse, he says. And it won't help your weight loss efforts to consume extra calories right before going to sleep.

Get moving. Exercising for weight loss can have a double benefit -- it may help you sleep better too. In a Duke University study, researchers found that physically fit older men fell asleep in less than half the time it took sedentary men. They also woke up less often during the night and slept more efficiently -- that is, they spent more of their snooze time in deep, restorative sleep. One caveat: Exercising too close to bedtime can make it hard for you to nod off because it's a stimulating activity, Epstein says.

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