If you’re like many Americans, a new year represents an opportunity for a fresh start. It can be helpful to reflect on the year that passed, thinking about the good and the bad, things we did well and things we’d like to change.
As part of this opportunity to examine our lives, many of us make new year’s resolutions. These resolutions typically include a few things we either want to do better or want to completely stop doing. While resolutions can be extremely personal, many people end up focusing on similar goals.
Losing weight is at the top of the list of most popular new year’s resolutions, followed by things like finding a better job, quitting smoking, and saving money.
The fact that thousands of us are focused on dropping a few pounds in the new year is probably not a bad thing. With U.S. obesity rates climbing across almost all demographic groups according to CDC data, weight loss may not only make us feel better but it might make us healthier, too.
Researchers have increasingly been emphasizing the connection between sleep and weight loss. Getting sound sleep and enough sleep are repeatedly shown to benefit our waistlines. Now some of the latest research suggests that along with the quantity and quality of a person’s sleep, keeping a regular sleep schedule may be more important than previously realized.
The connection between sleep and weight loss – Set your alarm
If one of your new year’s resolutions involves losing weight, keeping a regular sleep schedule might be a key to your success.
In the latest research, Professor Bruce Bailey and colleagues at Brigham Young University recruited 300 women (ages 17 to 26 years) to participate in a study. Each participant’s sleep schedule was tracked over the course of a few weeks and here is what the data revealed.
- Women who woke up at the same time each morning had less body fat than those with more erratic sleep schedules.
- A regular bedtime and wake up time are related to lower amounts of body fat.
- Getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep a night or more than 8.5 hours of sleep are associated with higher amounts of body fat.
- Sleep quality also plays an important role in body composition.
While more research certainly needs to be done to gain a broader understanding, it is apparent that maintaining a regular sleep schedule is beneficial for weight control. The researchers found that those with more than a 90 minute variation in sleep and wake up times had higher amounts of body fat than those with less than an hour variation in timing.
Dr. Bailey explains: “We have these internal clocks and throwing them off and not allowing them to get into a pattern does have an impact on our physiology.”
For many of us, this is may sound more simple than it actually is. Not only does it mean waking up on a set time each day no matter how warm and comfortable your bed is, but it also means going to bed early enough to make sure you are getting the recommended amount of sleep each night.
6 tips for getting on a regular sleep
If you are interested in getting on a more regular sleep schedule, there are plenty of things you can do. Follow along for six tips to establish a healthy sleep schedule:
- Establish a plan. It is hard to get on a schedule if you don’t have a clear idea of what the schedule involves. Figure out what time you need to go to bed and get up in the morning to get enough quality sleep while also meeting the demands of your own schedule. Once you have a bedtime and wake up time in mind you can begin making some changes to establish a schedule.
- Be patient with yourself. Keep in mind that you’ve likely developed your current sleep patterns over a long period of time. Making changes to this type of ritualized behavior can be challenging, especially at first. Set a goal and keep at it. Even making gradual changes can be worthwhile, especially if you can maintain the changes over the long term.
- Prepare for bed in advance. If you are trying to go to bed at a regular time each night, begin preparing for bed at least an hour in advance. This includes brushing your teeth, changing into sleepwear, and doing all the things you usually do before sleeping. It is also advisable to turn off electronics, avoid food or drinks, and try to engage in a more relaxing pace the last 60 to 30 minutes before bed.
- Prepare for your wake up. When establishing a sleep schedule, your wake up time is important. Make sure to set an alarm or make other plans to be sure you get up on time. Once you become more accustomed to your new routine, chances are you might even start to wake up without an alarm.
- Ease into schedule changes. If you are trying to make major changes in your sleep schedule, it could be very difficult. For example, if you are used to going to bed at midnight every night and are now trying to go to bed by 9 p.m. your body may not cooperate very easily. You may want to go to bed an hour early one week at a time until you get to your desired bedtime. This could also be similar for morning wake ups. Make your changes gradually to help your body adjust.
- Plan for your sleep schedule when you are awake. Keep in mind that the foods you eat, your physical activity, stress levels and your caffeine intake, may all have an influence on your sleep-wake schedule. Try to make choices during the day that will help support your routine. This might include going to an earlier movie or switching to decaf coffee in the afternoon. Be mindful of your goals so that your day time routine supports your effort.
Making changes in your life that help you get enough sleep and stay on a sleep routine can be challenging but worthwhile. This may be especially important if you are trying to lose weight, given the connection between sleep and weight loss. For more sleep tips and the latest sleep research, stay in touch with the sleep blog by Sleep Outfitters.