Getting a better night’s sleep is one of the easiest ways to lose weight. And, impressively, it’s one of the most effective. Case in point: In one Annals of Internal Medicine study, dieters who got 8.5 hours of sleep per night lost twice as much fat as those who scraped by on 5.5 hours—even though they all cut the same number of calories each day.
As you might have guessed, how you get ready for bed has a huge impact on whether or not your sleep results in weight loss.
Add these habits to your bedtime routine, and you’ll make your weight-loss journey so much easier:
- Fine-tuning the thermostat a couple of hours before bed can make drifting off to dreamland (and actually staying in it) way easier. “We need our body temperature to drop in order to sleep through the night,” says Rebecca Scott, Ph.D., research assistant professor of neurology at the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center—Sleep Center.
Plus, research published in Diabetes shows that when people sleep in rooms set to 66.2 degrees, they convert some of their calorie-storing white fat into calorie-burning brown fat. Why? Because brown fat’s in charge of heating your body, says board-certified family and bariatric physician Spencer Nadolsky, a doctor of osteopathic medicine.
- Winding down before bed can seem like a waste of time when most of us are rushing to get everything done right up until we get in bed,” says Scott. But it’s actually better to take the 30 minutes before hitting the hay for yourself—even if that means going to sleep a little later, she says.
Do a relaxing activity that you truly enjoy, like reading. This helps protect your sleep and energy.
- Even without a bedtime gadget habit, bright lights coming through your bedroom windows can cut down on your body’s production of sleepy-time melatonin, interfering with sleep quality, says Nadolsky. That explains why women who slept in the darkest rooms were 21 percent less likely to be obese than women who slept in the lightest rooms. But if you want to get the biggest benefit from “lights out,” you need to dim your indoor lights along with the setting sun. Think about it: If you spend your evening hours in a brightly lit living room, you’re missing out on a ton of melatonin that boosts your sleep.
- It might help you drift off (errr, pass out?), but it won’t help you stay that way. “Alcohol consumed too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep quality in the second part of the night,” says Scott. That’s because metabolizing the sugar in alcoholic beverages doesn’t let your body actually rest, he says. That results in longer light sleep stages, decreased dream sleep, and more fragmented dream sleep. In one 2015 University of Melbourne study, researchers said that the disruptions in a sleeping brain’s wave patterns after a night of drinking are similar to those induced by mild electric shocks.
- When it comes to snacking within an hour or two of your bedtime, there are a few things to consider: First, research does link late-night calories to the potential for weight gain. One study found that eating right before turning in can make your snooze time more restless, and that sets you up for fatigue and bingeing the next day. Also, late-night noshing tends to be associated with stress eating, which leads to overindulging in high-fat comfort calories.