How many meals did you eat yesterday?
However you answered the above question, chances are that you actually ate far more frequently than you recall. The majority of us now pack several mini-meals into our each day, according to a study at The Salk Institute. And the longer we stay up, the more calories we consume.
The scientists speculated that the best way to cut down on calorie intake might be simply to get more sleep, so they asked people who ate over the course of 14 hours each day to cut their grazing times to no more than 11 hours a day and to sleep more of the time. After 16 weeks, subjects lost an average of 3.5 percent of their excess body weight—just by going to bed earlier.
That means that just a few simple tweaks to your p.m. routine can mean serious weight loss success. So open your eyes: Here are science-backed suggestions to lose while you snooze. And while you’re awake, make sure you’re trying out these 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time to keep you on track with your weight-loss goals!
Tryp your sleep switch
Don’t count sheep, eat lamb! Or better yet, a bit of turkey. Tryptophan, an amino acid found in most meats, has demonstrated powerful sleep-inducing effects. A study published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease among “mild” insomniacs found that just 1/4 gram—about what you’ll find in a skinless chicken drumstick or three ounces of lean turkey meat—was enough to increase hours of deep sleep significantly. And that can translate into easy weight loss.
“Any tryptophan-containing food, which includes nuts, chicken, fish, lentils, and eggs, can help usher in sleepyhead syndrome,” says Julia Falamas, coach at Crossfit Spot Barbell in New York. “If you’re the type who can’t sleep on an empty stomach, a healthy source of fat like avocado or nut butter can help stave off hunger, while providing restorative properties,” she adds.
Schedule tea time
“There is something about the ritual of sitting down to a soothing cup of tea that tells your brain to slow down and relax,” says Falamas. “Some of the best teas for sleep are chamomile, peppermint, lavender and valerian, which actually does have some sedative properties.”
Eat whole grains at lunch
You know to avoid big meals, coffee, colas, and alcohol before bed, but did you know that it’s best to eat your complex carbohydrates at lunchtime, not with dinner? “Serotonin converts to melatonin in your stage 3 REM sleep, and serotonin is sourced from whole-grain complex carbohydrates. So you don’t need to have carbs before bed to sleep, just have them at some point through the day,” says Cat Smiley, owner of Whistler Fitness Vacations, a weight-loss retreat for women.
Also, to meet your daily fiber goal, “about 20 grams of insoluble fiber is important to enable you to sleep, so aim to eat that daily, and you’ll ensure you can convert enough serotonin to sleep well.” That’s about two pieces of whole grain sprouted bread (we like Ezekiel Bread)—avocado toast beckons!—or a cup of brown rice.
If you eat at night, keep it small
While you shouldn’t go to bed starving (that presents its own sleepytime problems), you also shouldn’t hit the sack completely stuffed. When you eat a large meal before bed, your body is working to digest it long into the night—and if your body is still worked up, so are you. The later you fall asleep, the less rest you’ll get, and you’ll wake up feeling groggy and more likely to reach for calorie-dense items.
Instead of eating a monster meal for dinner, try to keep portions about the same as your breakfast and lunch, especially if you eat dinner on the later side. “You want to eat your last meal at least an hour or two before going to bed,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN.
Better yet, set strict kitchen hours
Nighttime fasting—aka closing the kitchen early—may help you lose more weight, even if you eat more food throughout the day, according to a study in the journal Cell Metabolism. Experiment with closing the kitchen at 8 p.m. and skipping breakfast.
Try a protein shake
Having a protein shake before hitting the sack may boost your metabolism, according to one Florida State University study. Researchers found that men who consumed an evening snack that included 30 grams of protein had a higher resting metabolic rate the next morning than when eating nothing. Protein is more thermogenic than carbs or fat, meaning your body burns more calories digesting it.
Use vegan protein powder, which will give you the same fat-burning, hunger-squelching, muscle-building benefits, without the bloating that comes from whey.
RELATED: The 7-day diet that melts your belly fat fast.
Relax with breathing, meditation, or stretching
Striking some poses before bed can have a powerful influence on sleep quality because of yoga’s focus on breathing and meditation. “Yoga offers a variety of benefits, from increased flexibility and strength to a calmer mind,” says Mark Balfe-Taylor, director of yoga at TruFusion. He recommends the Deaf Man’s Pose.
“It can calm the nervous system, release the shoulders and neck and, most importantly, allows you to focus inward, block out stress and relax,” he says.
Let in the cold
A striking new study published in the journal Diabetes suggests that simply blasting the air conditioner or turning down the heat in winter may help us attack belly fat while we sleep. Colder temperatures subtly enhance the effectiveness of our stores of brown fat—fat keeps you warm by helping you burn through the fat stored in your belly. Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: a neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the subjects had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat. (And yes, that means they lost belly fat.)
Throw out the night light
Exposure to light at night doesn’t just interrupt your chances of a great night’s sleep, it may also result in weight gain according to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Study subjects who slept in the darkest rooms were 21 percent less likely to be obese than those sleeping in the lightest rooms.
That leads us to our next sleep-slimming trick….
Hide the iPad
Research suggests that the more electronics we bring into the bedroom, the fatter we get—especially among children. A study in the Pediatric Obesity journal found that kids who bask in the nighttime glow of a TV or computer don’t get enough rest and suffer from poor lifestyle habits. Researchers found that students with access to one electronic device were 1.47 times as likely to be overweight as kids with no devices in the bedroom. That increased to 2.57 times for kids with three devices.
Bottom line: Leave your iPad in the living room. Your spouse might thank you, too.
Turn off the TV
Did you know lean people watch less TV? A recent analysis of studies published in JAMA found that for every two hours spent watching TV, the risk of developing diabetes, developing heart disease, and early death increased by 20, 15 and 13 percent, respectively. Scientists are still figuring out exactly why sitting is so detrimental to health, but one obvious and partial explanation is that the less we move, the less fuel we require; the surplus blood sugar floods the bloodstream and contributes to diabetes and other weight-related risks.
Discover how just a few other easy tweaks can help you lose up to 4 inches from your waist—fast—with these best-ever nutrition tips!
Blackout with blackout shades
Light-blocking curtains make a huge difference when it comes to falling asleep. Outside light makes it harder for your mind to shut down, even if you think you’re immune to such instinctive signals. Melatonin, the hormone involved in putting your body to sleep, is compromised when light is present.
“Darken your room so that going to bed, even early, feels natural,” Smiley says.
Take a hot shower
If you normally bathe in the a.m., listen up. “A hot shower is great for ensuring a good night’s sleep because it can help relieve tension and relax sore muscles. Additionally, it can increase the level of oxytocin—a ‘love’ hormone released by your brain—which can be very soothing,” says Falamas. The heat from the shower also gives your body temperature a lift, resulting in a quick drop in temp when you get out and towel off, a dip that helps relax your entire system. A hot bath will also have the same effect.
Skip the chocolate
Don’t get us wrong; we love chocolate. In fact, any bar that contains at least 70 percent cacao is one of our favorite low-sugar snacks or desserts because of its high concentration of antioxidants and stress-busting abilities. Unfortunately, if eaten too late that chocolate could be the reason you can’t fall asleep. Dark chocolate contains caffeine—about 40 to 50 mg of caffeine per 40-gram serving, according to Consumer Lab testing—which can prevent your body from shutting down when you want it to if you’re sensitive to the compound.
Chocolate bars have varying amounts of caffeine, but an average two-ounce, 70 percent dark chocolate bar contains around 79 milligrams. For reference, an eight-ounce cup of coffee contains around 145 milligrams. For a different late-night indulgence, try these filling, guilt-free best snacks for weight loss!
Don’t indulge in a nightcap
Wine is our favorite “healthy” alcoholic drink due to its resveratrol—a plant compound that has been linked to heart-healthy benefits, although more research needs to be done, according to a review published in the journal Nutrients. However, that evening glass of wine is also considered a high-sugar beverage, according to Smith. Drinking too much can hinder your ability to snooze. It may feel like that nightly glass of wine is relaxing you and helping you fall asleep faster, but it actually prevents your body from fully indulging in its REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle, which is where truly restful sleep and dreaming occurs.
Enjoy a glass earlier in the night—about two hours before bedtime—to avoid sleep disruption, and close the home bar after one or two glasses, tops.
Have more sex
Wanna sleep better and lose more weight? Have more sex. A new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine shows that for every extra hour of sleep women got, their sexual desire increased accordingly. And separate research by Adelaide sleep researcher Dr. Michele Lastella showed that the more sex you get, the better you sleep, and the more weight you lose.
Splurge on a pillow
When it comes to a better night’s sleep, some gadgets are total ripoffs (like those as-seen-on-TV anti-snoring contraptions), but investing in the right pillow is key. “Buying an orthopedic pillow keeps your neck aligned. You’ll wake up in the morning with no neck pain,” says Smiley.