Is your Bedtime Making you Fat?

When was the last time someone told you to go to bed? Were you 8 years old? 10 years old? But in truth, it was probably the best thing for you. Many of my patients tell me that they have great plans to get in bed at 10, but before they know it, they look up and it is 11:15 and they say, oh well, and stay up for another hour!

Think about it. Your bedtime is one of the few things that you can control when it comes to your sleep. Typically our “wake up” times are socially determined. We have to get up for work or school, get the kids ready, you know the drill. So our wake up time is pretty constant. But the time we can get into bed can vary, and can actually be within our control.

Restricting the time that you have in bed can be causing you to suffer significant sleep deprivation.  And we all know that sleep deprivation has some significant effects on weight loss:

  • Hormone imbalance-making your appetite grow, and feelings of being full less
  • Losing the last hour of sleep in a full sleep cycle, which means losing REM sleep-the stage where you burn the most calories.
  • Sleep deprivation causes food cravings for high fat, high carb treats

So how do you know when your bed time should be? And how much sleep do you really need, particularly if you want your body’s metabolism to work most efficiently ?

Learn your perfect bedtime solution:

  1. Determine what your  typical wake up time will be
  2. Count back five 90 minute cycles or  7.5 hours
    • Each sleep cycle on average is 90 minutes long and the average person has  5 of them per night
  3. Set your alarm clock or cell phone to tell you when to go to bed (but remember to reset it for your morning alarm)
  4. If you wake up within 10 minutes of your morning alarm after three days of going to bed at your “bed time” you found your perfect bedtime!
  5. If not, and you still need your morning alarm to wake up, then move your bedtime alarm back by 15 minutes every three days until you wake up just before your morning alarm.  When you wake up before your morning alarm, you have found your perfect bedtime.

For example:

If you must wakeup at 6:30 a.m.  every morning, set your bedtime alarm for 11:00 p.m. to remind you to get in bed within the next  15 minutes (some people will set it about 8 hours before wake up time  – 10:30 p.m. – to give them enough time to get ready for bed).

By going to bed at the right time for you, you can avoid sleep deprivation, your hormones will be in balance, and your metabolism will run smoothly.

And think – how great would it feel to wake up without that alarm clock?  You really could finish all of those dreams….

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD 
The Sleep Doctor™

The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan:  Lose Through Better Sleep

Everything you do, you do better with a good night's sleep™ 
twitter: @thesleepdoctor 

3 replies
  1. David Stillwagon
    David Stillwagon says:

    that is good advice about setting your alarm to remind you to go to sleep. Even then it probably would be difficult because going to bed if you aren’t tired is tough to do.
    good post and blog!

  2. Lisa Feierstein
    Lisa Feierstein says:

    Dr. Breus,
    Another excellent post–having a regular bedtime schedule is crucial for health and we can easily fall into the trap of “this show is almost over” or “I’ve got to finish these emails.” If I may add, it’s also important for folks to know to keep a regular sleep schedule on weekends too. It does take self-discipline to go to bed and rise at the same time, 7 days a week, but isn’t a long, healthy life worth it?
    Lisa Feierstein, Founder, Active Healthcare, Inc.
    Raleigh, NC

  3. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    Surely, there has to be more to it that that? I ‘naturally’ do the 7.5 hrs. Who knew, yet my sleep is shocking. Recently I seem to be going to sleep then waking up 2hrs later, tossing and turning for another 4hrs, only to then fall asleep.

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