Shawnee Mission Community Health Update: A good night’s rest keeps the pounds off

By Megan Schlick, ND

Megan Schlick, ND
Megan Schlick, ND

Is sleep the new magic bullet when it comes to weight loss? In a recent study published in the July issue of Sleep, research indicated that less sleep will lead to increased calorie consumption and overall weight gain.

In the study, 225 healthy adults were divided into two groups. The control group had 10 hours in bed per night while the sleep-restricted group was only allowed to be in bed from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. While in the study, participants could not exercise, but were able to watch TV, play video games, read and use a computer. Meals, snacks and drinks could be ordered from a varied menu as often as they wanted.

Researchers noted the following:

  • The sleep-restricted group gained approximately 2 pounds over the seven-day study period while the normal sleepers did not gain weight.
  • Within the sleep-restricted group, men gained more weight than women, and African Americans gained more weight than Caucasians.
  • While eating patterns were relatively constant in the normal sleepers, the restricted sleepers ate more food and more calories on the days when bedtime was 4 a.m.
  • Almost all of the extra calories were consumed between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., and a greater portion of those calories were from fat.
  • In people who stayed in the lab for two recovery nights, eating returned to normal after the first night of regular sleep.

This isn’t the first studying linking lack of sleep with chronic health concerns, and I guarantee it won’t be the last. Here are some tips to getting a good night’s sleep.

  1. Prioritize sleep. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
  2. Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool and quiet. Do not make your bed a place to watch TV, check your email or play on your computer.
  3. Try not to rehash the day’s problems or worry about tomorrow.
  4. Caffeine in the evening disturbs sleep, even if you don’t think it does!
  5. Consider earplugs or an eye mask if you work night shifts or live in a noisy area.
  6. A light, protein-rich snack may help, but a heavy meal will not.
  7. Have a good breakfast. It will set your day up for success and will curb afternoon sugar binges.
  8. Natural sunlight during the day can be helpful for falling and staying asleep, so get outdoors, even for a brief walk.
  9. When you go to bed, relax your muscles, beginning with your feet and work your way up to your head.
  10. Use natural sleep aids. If your sleep tends to be poor despite following the above recommendations, consider using herbal sleep remedies such as those with lavender, valerian, chamomile and passionflower, which are known to have calming, soothing properties without the extra drowsiness or dependence that prescription sleep aids carry.

This weekly sponsored Community Health Update is brought to you by Shawnee Mission Medical Center.

Megan Schlick, ND, is a Prairie Village resident and accredited naturopath at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. To learn more about her practice, visit To find a doctor or for free health information, call the ASK-A-NURSE Resource Center at 913-676-7777.