How many meals did you eat yesterday?
Wrong! 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 recent 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 20 science-backed suggestions to lose while you snooze, compliments of Eat This, Not That! researchers. And to lose even more weight—easily and rapidly—don’t miss exclusive tips from Shaun T, Maria Menounos, Padma Lakshmi and more in this new essential report: The 50 Best-Ever Weight-Loss Secrets from Slim People!
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 recent study among 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, director of programming and operations at Epic Hybrid Training fitness studio. “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
Certain teas also have magical weight-loss properties, from dimming your hunger hormones to upping your calorie burn to—literally—melting the fat that’s stored in your fat cells. Click here to see how test panelists slept better and lost up to 10 pounds in one week on our diet plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse!
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. Looking for more sure-fire ways to flatten your belly? Check out these 44 Ways to Lose 4 Inches of Body Fat.
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. Researchers put groups of mice on a high-fat, high-calorie diet for 100 days. Half of them were allowed to nibble throughout the night and day on a healthy, controlled diet, while the others only had access to food for eight hours, but could eat whatever they wanted. The result of the 16-hour food ban? The fasting mice stayed lean, while the mice who noshed ’round the clock became obese—even though both groups consumed the same amount of calories!
Experiment with closing the kitchen at 8 pm and skipping breakfast.
Shake Things Up
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—recommended in the bestselling Zero Belly Diet—which will give you the same fat-burning, hunger-squelching, muscle-building benefits, without the bloating that comes from whey. For 150+ recipes that will make your belly flat, including amazing vegan smoothies, buy the brand-new book from Abs Diet creator David Zinczenko that helped panelists lose up to 16 pounds in 14 days: Zero Belly Cookbook!
Make a Mint
Certain scents can make your mouth water, and others can actually suppress your appetite. One study published in the Journal of Neurological and Orthopaedic Medicine found that people who sniffed peppermint every two hours lost an average of 5 pounds a month! Banana, green apple, and vanilla had similar effects.
Consider burning a minty candle until you head to bed to fill the room with slimming smells. If you don’t want to bother with blowing out candles before you turn down the covers, try adding a few drops of peppermint oil to your pillow.
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.)
Keep it cool. And speaking of turbocharging your body’s fat burn, learn how stubborn weight gain may not be your fault, and turn off your hunger hormones with the help of our exclusive report, 25 Foods That Make You Hungrier!
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.
Leave your iPad in the living room. You spouse might thank you, too.
And Switch off Fallon, Too
Did you know lean people watch less TV? A recent analysis of studies 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 25 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 suggests.
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.
A shower takes just minutes. But there are even quicker ways to lose weight, and we’ve collected them in this special story (that takes just seconds to read): 33 Lazy Ways to Lose Your Belly—Fast!
Get the Night-time Blues
There’s a reason why McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s all have the same red-and-yellow theme colors. Those tones supposedly send us subliminal messages that help make us hungry. Does the same trick work at home? An experiment published in the interior design magazine Contract presented partygoers with three identical venues painted different colors: red, yellow and blue. Participants reported the red and yellow rooms to be equally appetizing (and ate the most in the yellow room) but found the food in the blue room only half as appealing. A separate study also found a blue room reduces blood pressure and slows your heart rate!
To decrease your appetite, eat off blue plates. And next time your kitchen is in need of a fresh coat of paint, consider using an ocean-inspired hue.
Don’t Work Out Late
Regular workouts have been found to help ease sleepless nights, but hitting the gym too late can mess with your body clock. Exercising close to bedtime—within about two hours—can energize your body so much that it may not be able to wind down when it’s time to call it a night.
If you’re not a morning person, try to exercise right after work or midday if your schedule allows. That way, you can head home, eat dinner and relax knowing you’ll be able to fall fast asleep when the time comes. If you’re stuck at the office really late, you’re better off skipping your workout for the night and hitting the hay early. If your body gets the rest it needs you’re more likely to stay on track with your healthy eating and workouts in the days that follow. And whether you work out or not, power up your metabolism with these essential 29 Best-Ever Proteins for Weight Loss!
Instead, Get Your “Om” on
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 (shown here). “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. For even more ways to calm down and drop pounds, don’t miss these 10 Ways to Relax So Healthy Eating Works.
Make Dinner— then Make Whoopie
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 a separate study showed that the more sex you get, the better you sleep, and the more weight you lose.
Women, click here for The Best Foods For Your Sex Drive—Better Than Female Viagra! Men, click here for The 50 Best Foods for Maximum Performance in Bed!
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.
You can find one at your local chiropractor’s clinic, most places that sell bedding, and even online. We like Sleep Innovations Contour Memory Foam Pillow which sells for $29 on Amazon.com. It’s their #1 best selling orthopedic pillow, so you know it’s gonna be good!
Skip the Chocolate
Don’t get us wrong; we love chocolate. In fact, any bar that contains at least 70% 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, 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 50 Best Snacks for Weight Loss!
Have Just the Right Amount of Wine
Wine is our favorite “healthy” alcoholic drink due to its resveratrol—a plant compound that has been linked to heart-healthy benefits. However, that evening glass of wine is also considered a high-sugar beverage, according to Smith, and 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.