Now that we’re more than a full month into the year, some of our weight loss goals may have begun to fall by the wayside. I take a relaxed approach to maintaining a healthy weight by cooking at home rather than eating out, and carving out time each day for a 30-minute walk. But I was excited to find out that there’s another extremely simple way to keep excess weight off over time. New research suggests that people who get more than eight hours of sleep each night consume almost 300 fewer calories per day — about double what my walk helps me burn.
A recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine looked at whether getting extra sleep positively affected weight loss results among overweight adults. Study participants included men and women between the ages of 21 and 40 who averaged less than six and a half hours of sleep per night. Some of them were asked to participate in a two-week sleep hygiene counseling session that would help them extend their average nightly sleep to eight and a half hours, while the rest acted as a control group and continued their regular sleep pattern.
The authors measured participants’ metabolic rates throughout the study to see how many calories their bodies were taking in, and how many they burned. (To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume.)
Researchers found that the group who slept for more than eight hours a night consumed 270 calories fewer per day than the control group. Lead study author Esra Tasali, MD, spoke to us about what these findings mean in the greater context of sleep and weight loss. “Sufficient sleep can help reduce caloric intake and have important implications for weight maintenance, and for people who would like to lose weight,” she explained.
Dr. Tasali added that participants didn’t receive instructions for modifying their diet or exercise routine during the study period. However, she noted that the people who worked on improving their sleep habits ate about 270 calories less per day once they were getting adequate rest. “Small changes in sleep habits can help you get healthy,” she added.
If getting eight and a half hours of sleep sounds tricky to you, try these three simple tips:
- Drink an eight ounce glass of water with a small pinch of sea salt 30 minutes before bed. This helps keep you hydrated throughout the night and avoid those midnight trips to the bathroom.
- Add strength training to your fitness routine — another research-backed way to improve your sleep quality.
- Take gut-friendly probiotic supplements every day. This has been shown to promote relaxation, which is key to getting uninterrupted rest. (Take a peek at our list of the best gut-healing probiotics.)
Skipping out on calories and sleeping more each night sounds like a win-win to me. And while 270 calories may not sound like a lot, over time it really adds up to keep stubborn belly fat at bay!