Healthy sleep = Beauty sleep = weight loss?

Your mamma always told you that you need 8 hours of sleep at night, right? Turns out, she’s right. Without that requisite 8 hours, your body can’t produce the necessary hormones that help promote a healthy weight. Who’d a thunk it?


So, it’s not just that sleeping soundly for at least eight hours a night is heavenly. It’s that getting a good night’s rest is one of the best things you can do for yourself healthwise.

Here’s why. We sleep in two-hour cycles which repeat in progressive blocks of 2 hours each, which provide deeper and deeper levels of sleep. REM sleep is the goal.

Stage 1 (first two hours) almost awake, rouse easily—non-REM sleep

Stage 2 (second two hours—hours 2-4) a little deeper

Stage 3 (third two hours—hours 5-6) provides approx 40% REM

Stage 4 (fourth two hours—7-8) Dream sleep—REM

So if you only get 4 hours of sleep—you never do get to your REM sleep.

Even 6 hours only gets you 40% of your much needed REM and girlfriends, it ain’t enough.

Now, here’s the techy part: if we don’t get to REM sleep, our bodies can’t produce the hormones we need to HELP us control our hunger. Yes, that’s what I said. You thought it was lack of willpower, didn’t you? Truth be told, if you don’t get to REM sleep, then you don’t get your weight protection hormones and you honestly CAN’T resist food.

It has to do with Leptins and Ghrelins and some other ‘stuff’. Bottom line, lack of sleep kicks in your famine protection program and makes your body THINK you’re starving and demands that you eat – all because you didn’t get enough sleep.

The “freshman 20 (or 40!) weight gain in college is not just related to the junk food and the large quantities of it, but to sleep loss.

Just one more note on this: REM sleep is the most important because this is when most of your Leptin is made. Higher leptin: amplifies feeling of fullness. Low leptin—leads to badly altered fat stores and fat storage goes to liver and abdomen.

Okay. So now that we know, how do we get that much needed 8 hours of sleep?


Unfortunately with our hectic lifestyles, many factors can disrupt sleepy time. Since both quality and quantity are important, here are some simple tips to help you improve your zzz’s once and for all!

  • No Booze Before Bedtime: Alcohol is not a sleep aid. A glass of wine might help you drift off, but alcohol actually disrupts sleep patterns— especially for women — in the latter half of the night.
  • No Late-Night Workouts: Get your last workout in three-four hours before bedtime. Physical activity can promote deeper sleep but you don’t want to work out right before bed as it stimulates the body and may make falling asleep more difficult. If you’re having a hard time winding down, try deep breathing to help you drift off to sleep.

  • No Big Meals Before Bedtime: Stop eating at least two hours before bed, especially carbs and sugar. Your ghrelin (hunger hormone) needs to be high in order to slip into deep sleep, but since carbs lower this hormone, they may prevent you from drifting into dreamland. Not to mention, if your stomach is full or you’re digesting a big meal, it’s hard to fall asleep, especially if lying down gives you heartburn.
  • Tech and Sleep Don’t Mix: Keep your laptop, BlackBerry, and other gadgets out of the bedroom. Watching television, checking emails, or reading articles on websites can disrupt sleeping patterns. The artificial light emitted from these devices suppresses the release of the sleep-producing hormone melatonin. Also studies show that texting in bed can cause anxiety. I know, your Twitter updates will have to wait until the morning, sorry.
  • Make your bedroom your sleep sanctuary by reducing as much noise and light in the room as possible. Even a little bit of light can throw off your sleep cycle — even light from a digital clock. If you don’t have blackout shades and your room isn’t very dark, try wearing a sleep mask. And keep your room at a comfortable temperature — somewhere between 54 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Get ready for bed before you’re ready for bed. Who among us doesn’t fall asleep watching TV from time to time? If you think that’s a possibility, get into your jammies before you settle down before the TV. Have your bed turned down, all your last minute chores done so that if you fall asleep, when you wake up on the couch, all you have to do is toddle into bed and tuck in under the covers.
  • Try to drink the bulk of your fluids before 1:00 pm so you don’t wake up from you precious sleep for a bathroom run.

Okay. That’s all I’ve got. What about you? Do you get your 8 hours of sleep? Did you know that lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain? What are some of the tricks you use to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and get you those 8 precious hours that your need and deserve?


About cindygerard

Cindy Gerard is a New York Times best-selling author of action packed romantic suspense novels. Learn more about Cindy at
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29 Responses to Healthy sleep = Beauty sleep = weight loss?

  1. Kylie Brant says:

    I just lurv sleeping 🙂 It’s my best thing. However with age and thyroid problems comes sleep disruption. Grrrr. Sometimes it’s the pillow or position people are sleeping with. I’ve discovered (sleeping on my back or side) that I sleep better with a pillow beneath (or between) my knees. Soft soft pillows beneath my head = fewer wake ups due to discomfort.

    Interesting that it’s linked to weight. I need to have my husband checked for apnea. Sometimes he sounds like he’s choking over there. Not conducive to *my* sleep, LOL!

  2. Cindy Gerard says:

    I notice, too, Kylie that the older I get the harder it is to sleep. That’s why I try to avoid water, sugar and caffeine after a cut off point every day.

    Speaking of pillows – does anyone to travel with their pillow? Raising my hand here

  3. Kathleen O'Donnell says:

    Cindy these are great ways to fall asleep.. I have tired most of these ideas for sleep. But for the last number of years I have had a serious sleeping problem. But it is caused mostly through my Fibermyalgia and Chronic Fatigue..I am luck to get 2 straigh hours of sleep… I have even gone to a sleep clinic to ahve myself assesed. Was a waste of time… I already knew what they were going to tell me. So I just get my sleep when I can….

  4. Cindy Gerard says:

    Sorry to hear that you’re having difficulty, Kathleen. And you’re right. Sometimes, you just have to take that sleep when you can get it.

  5. Terry Odell says:

    I read — first a print book, and when I get drowsy, I switch to my e-reader. I turn off the light because the reader is back-lit. I don’t mind if I fall asleep while reading, because it will turn itself off and remember where I was.

    Staying asleep, however is a challenge. I often wake up and my brain goes into overdrive. So I pick up my reader again (not having to turn on a light helps, and I can lower the brightness to almost nothing so I don’t disturb Hubster) and get my brain back into the story instead of into the “what’s going on in my life” mode.

    Terry’s Place

  6. Ivy D says:

    No, even if I don’t drink anything I have to get up…Frustrating. I’m up 2-3 times a night. I can’t recall the last time I slept 8 hrs straight unfortunately.

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      Oh man, Ivy. That’s a problem. I read this somewhere: Try to intake most of you fluids before 1:00 in the afternoon. Then, in the evening, if you sit down to read and or watch TV or movies, lay on the sofa with your feet above your head – well, not ABOVE your head literally LOL but so they are higher than your head so the fluids will drain back into your body and you’ll expel them before you turn in. Also cut down on caffeine. Hope those little things will help a little :o)

  7. Marilyn says:

    I try to get 8 hours but the body wakes up before then. I work from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. now so I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn. Had the alarm set for 9:30 so I could get a lot of sleep and yet my body woke up at quarter to 8. Darn. I have restless leg syndrome but take meds for it that make me drowsy. Falling asleep isn’t the problem; staying asleep is.

    Kylie, definitely get your husband to have that apnea checked. It can lead to heart attacks and stroke, not to mention the annoyance to you. My ex had it bad and had surgery for it. But until he did, I slept with heavy-duty earplugs — or in the guest bedroom.

    Great post, Cindy!

  8. Cindy Gerard says:

    Marilyn – restless leg syndrome is sometimes caused by anemia. Also, sleep apnea can trigger restless legs. Have you been checked for either? Might not be a bad idea. you don’t have to be a snorer to have apnea … and you’re right, it’s really bad on the heart.

    • Marilyn says:

      Been checked for anemia and also had a sleep study that revealed the restless legs but thankfully no apnea. I take meds that calm my legs and make me drowsy, but I still don’t always sleep well. And here I am at 11:37 pm on the computer, which I shouldn’t be doing. Ah well…

  9. Kylie, I know what you mean about that scary sound coming from the other side of the bed. Get him to a sleep disorder clinic forthwith. Insurance might require a referral, but most do cover it. Clyde has sleep apnea, and he’s been on a c-pac (sp?) machine for several years. The machine is MUCH quieter, and it works. That choking sound? They really do stop breathing. It’s dangerous. We convinced our S-I-L to go in for testing, and it’s made all the difference for him, too.

  10. Marilyn, I had restless leg for years–didn’t know what it was for a long time. I’d get it on long car rides and in bed. Drives you nuts, doesn’t it? When the over-the-counter stuff came out I used that, but haven’t for years. It went away.

  11. michelehauf says:

    Oh, Cindy, yes, I am a pillow-taker-wither kind of chick. If I’m driving to stay somewhere, the pillow always goes with me. Have a hard time sleeping on someone else’s pillow. Ugg.
    So I wonder if there’s anything bad with getting about 10 hrs of sleep a night? 😉 I do love my sleep.

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      LOL Michele. My pillow has been to Italy, Spain, the Grand Canyon, Australia, New Zealand, New York – well, I could go on. It’s like a security blanket for me:o)

      I don’t think that 10 hours of sleep is a bad thing. congratulations!!! Can’t remember when I got more than 6 hours but I’m working on it.

  12. Oh, man, Cindy, I start craving something sweet around 10 at night. Mustresistmustresist.

    I’ve seen some of these tips recently, and the one that caught my attention was no e-reader in bed. I still don’t have one, but now I’m sure it won’t replace paper for me. I have to read before I sleep.

    What’s the latest on afternoon naps? Do they count toward the MDR for sleep? I’ve read lately that the siesta is a healthy thing, and I remember reading some time ago that breaking up sleep into smaller bites was a good thing. I wish the experts would make up their minds.

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      Afternoon naps? Oh, what joy. But no. You have to have the 8 hours to get the full REM cycle in so while the naps don’t count toward producing the hormones, they sure can’t hurt on all other levels.

  13. Cindy Gerard says:

    Kathy – I must come clean. I have been recently diagnosed with significant sleep apnea. I can’t tell you how much I hate it. have been on my new BIPAP machine for 5 nights. As of yet, I’m not a happy camper. Much to get used to and still not sleeping but they’ve scared me into being a believer and I will somehow manage to adjust. I keep listening to friends who are on either a CPAP or a BIPAP and they insist that if I stay with it, I’ll soon feel like a new person. Fingers crossed.

  14. leannebanks says:

    Great post Cindy! But I find it impossible to stay asleep when I get a roaring hot flast around 3 or 4 am. Forget the prince! Someday my sleep will come.:) xo, Leanne

  15. Helen Brenna says:

    Oh, I love my sleep! I always try for 8 hours, but usually only get 7 and even then many nights are disrupted by dogs or cats waking me up. Women’s hormones are a big culprit when it comes to sleep disruptions.

    One more suggestion … try to keep the same sleep hours every day of the week. If you sleep in too long on weekends it can end up messing up your weekdays.

    I’ve also heard that some of the ereaders can disrupt sleep. It’s a certain type of screen that’s the problem. Can’t remember which one, though??

  16. Mary Louise says:

    Well, this certainly explains a lot!! Honestly, I am lucky to get 5-6 hours. I complained to my doctor and he said, sympathically, it’s becuase I’m getting old!! I’m awake well before the COD and use the time to get to the gym before work. Really, there’s a whole other world functioning at 5:00 a.m. Sometimes I look forward to a rainy Saturday when I can veg, read and catch a few zzzzzs.

  17. Christie Ridgway says:

    My sleep has been really off these last few years. Wake up and I start worrying (I’m a chronic worrier) so now I have a little mantra I use. “Everything always works out for me.” I say it over and over in my mind, drowning out all the negative thoughts until I just bore myself back to sleep.

    I haven’t gotten much better at sleeping, but I have had a calmer mind while awake!

  18. Hi Cindy,
    About 5 years ago we had a guest speaker talk about the right amount of sleep. At the time I thought he was kind of an aging hippie but decided to implement some of the things he said. First thing was to not drink ice cold water and to drink about 2 litres a day. Seeing as I didn’t really like water anyway I figured I could drink warmer water easier. Second thing, make a bed time and stick to it. That one was and still is hard, seriously if I’m at “THAT POINT” in a book, I DO NOT want to go to bed. Third thing, excercise regularly. Even if its only a brisk ten minute walk everyday. Lastly he said to eat regularly and eat nothing within 2 – 3 hours of the bedtime you set. Since putting this in place, (well except for the book exception days lol) I found I sleep longer and better, dont need an alarm clock to wake me up (even when that stupid daylight savings starts and ends) and not only lost weight but maintained the weight loss

  19. Pingback: How Well Did You Sleep Last Night? | Change Your Choices

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