Trying to lose weight? Don't forget to sleep

Published On: Nov 04 2013 11:02:10 AM EST
Updated On: Nov 04 2013 11:03:22 AM EST

Millions of Americans are trying to shed pounds, but according to one diet expert, many don't get enough of one key element: sleep.

Ohio State University Medical Center (OSUMC) dietitian Shirley Kindrick, PhD says if you plan to get to the gym more, you need to eat right, but also need to get to bed on time.

Dr. Kindrick is accustomed to advising clients on their diets, nutritional values and healthy portion sizes. Surprisingly more often, and particularly during this time of year, she counsels patients on their sleep habits, often learning that some are trading sleep for exercise and thwarting their weight loss efforts.

"America is a sleep-deprived nation and I think this is one of the big reasons we're seeing such a problem with obesity in this country," Kindrick says.

Kindrick, who works with patients enrolled in OSUMC's weight management service, says when the body is sleep deprived, there are hormonal changes that take place that lead to a craving of carbohydrates.

"If you are sleep deprived, you're probably not going to feel like exercising so you have two forces working against you -- you are craving more carbohydrates, most likely those contained in candy, sweets and sodas -- and you don't feel like exercising," Kindrick says.

Kindrick says getting to bed is every bit as important as getting to the gym to lose weight, especially because lack of sleep has also been linked to Type 2 diabetes.

Kindrick says most adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night. Studies have shown that people who slept five hours per night were 73 percent more likely to become obese than those getting seven to nine nightly hours of sleep.

To get more sleep, Kindrick suggests doing it gradually. She tells her clients to go to bed 15 minutes earlier for a week, then add 15 more minutes in following weeks until they build up to a longer night's sleep.

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