Many people slash their calories and hit the gym hoping to shed a few pounds, only to step on the scale and see the number stubbornly refuse to budge.
According to Dr. Michael Breus, a nationally recognized sleep expert, a little shuteye can make the difference between a failed diet and a successful one. Poor sleep leads to a diet-busting combination of higher cortisol levels that boost the appetite, a slower metabolism and cravings for fatty or high-carbohydrate foods, he said.
“When I get people sleeping better, weight literally falls off of them,” Breus said.
A clinical psychologist with a specialty in sleep disorders, Breus is traveling throughout Maine this week training sleep shops about his line of mattresses. He’s also author of the book “The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan.”
Breus offered five tips for better sleep:
• Go to bed at the same time every day, including weekends, to help your body adjust to a natural sleep rhythm. Even one or two late nights can throw sleep out of whack. “Some people experience this as what we call Sunday night insomnia — they stay up late Friday night, they stay up late Saturday night, and then all of a sudden Sunday comes and their normal bedtime isn’t working for them because their body has already adjusted to this later bedtime,” he said.
• Skip caffeine after 2 p.m., as the effects last eight to 10 hours. Are you one of those people who sips coffee after dinner and can still fall asleep? You’re probably not sleeping well and deeply, Breus said.
• Avoid drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
• Exercise consistently to improve sleep quality, but not within four hours of bedtime because working out can boost energy levels.
• Enjoy five to 10 minutes of sunlight every morning. “Sunlight resets the internal biological clock,” Breus said.
He also recommends unplugging from interactive technology, like surfing the Web on an iPad, one hour before bed. Television, on the other hand, can help those who need a distraction from the stresses of the day to catch a wink, he said.
“I’m probably the only sleep doctor in the world that says it’s OK to watch television to fall asleep,” Breus said.
Meditation, yoga, prayer and reading before bed can also help stressed out people to fall asleep and stay asleep, he said.