|Image 1: Blindfolds are cheaper than light-tight curtains or shutters and they are more versatile ;-)|
Take 123 overweight men and women and reduce their caloric intake by 600-700kcal ...
... what is going to happen? Well, the answer to that question should be straight forward, right? These obese men and women, whose mean age was 41.1 years and who had an average BMI of 33.2kg/m², should begin losing weight, right? According to my previous post on "Busting the 3,500kcal = 1lbs Weight Loss Myth!" not necessarily 1lbs in 5-6 days but 1lbs in say 10 days should be the minimum. So, after the 24-week study period of trial Jean-Philippe Chaput and Angelo Tremblay conducted, the 90% of the participants who reported that they actually complied to the dietary prescription should be ~16.8lbs or 8.4kg lighter.
Never underestimate the fat-burning prowess of a good night's sleep!
The reasons the other 84% "underperformed", however, are manifold (keep in mind: Against the background that many obese people simply get more obese year by year even stagnation may have been progress for some). Those I consider the most important / likely ones are:
- reporting to be compliant, when you actually are not - a 24h food recalls done every 2 weeks as in the study at hand are notoriously unreliable, even if subjects don't fake them intentionally.
- eating way too little - in view of the fact that the reported baseline calorie intake was only 1,310kcal the additional reduction of 600-700kcal put them in starvation mode; no wonder they hardly lost weight (I wonder if the authors did maybe enter the reduced energy intake into the "baseline characteristics table, accidentally; cf. table 1)
- not eating the right whole foods - people tend to think "if I go to starve I better starve on chocolate and pie than on broccoli and chicken filet", so that - in the absence of concrete meal plans - subjects would eat cream cake every day and still comply to their goal wrt to total energy intake
|Figure 2: Fat loss as a function of sleep duration (left) and sleep quality (middle; both based on Chaput. 2012); as well as the "normal" distribution of PSQI (sleep quality scores) among healthy people (right; from Buysse. 1998)|
change in total energy intake (r Duration = 0.34 vs. r Quality = -0.31; data not shown in figure 2). This may be surprising at first, but in view of the fact that only PSQI score greater than 5 are highly sensitive to determine whether you are or aren't a "good sleeper" it appears reasonable.
And still, my personal experience tells me that without a reasonably good sleep quality you will rather feel worse than better if you simply stayed in bed for another 83min. So my suggestion remains (see implications for more): Get yourself a blindfold and earplugs - it will make a huge change to your sleep quality and you ability to sleep longer and wake up more refreshed and don't worry about either the alarm clock or your partner. While you will hear the former anyway, your partner certainly won't mind if you are better rested and physically more attractive than ever, although that may mean that he or she will be nudging you more often to put the blindfolds to an alternative and certainly not less enjoyable use ;-)
Implications: The results of this study put another emphasis on the importance of good sleep (7-9h every night) in the context of losing weight, building a better physique and living an overall healthier and happier life. Aside from the previously mentioned ear-plugs and blindfolds, there are yet a couple of other things you can / should do to get the sleep your body needs
- go to bed with or as closely after sundown, whenever this is possible - don't worry if you are "up early" this is how life is supposed to be, not the other way around (note: alarm clocks are 100% non-paleo ;-)
- don't sacrifice your social life for sleep, but don't persuade yourself that you have to party everyday and thus cannot go to bed in time
- don't use your computer / mobile phone / social media in the vicinity of going to bed; it will delay your ability to fall asleep and the light of the small (often blueish) LCD screens will interfere with your circadian rhythm
- if anything have a shake or other readily digestible food before bed, otherwise digestion may interfere with your sleep quality in the first 2h and losing 2 out of 8 hours of sleep could already cost you 1.4kg of body fat you would otherwise have lost (you know the figure is mere statistical shenanigan, right?)
- plan your TV consumption and set a deadline for when the boob tube must be off; even consider buying a timer switch to make sure it will be off
- consider using melatonin and light therapy for a short period of time (or strategically, when you are a shift worker) to get into the new rhythm (dosing 3-10 mg melatonin before bed, 15-45min bright light therapy when you wake up or strategically during night shifts; eg. Sharkey. 2001; Bjorvatn. 2007; Sadeghniiat-Haghighi. 2008)
- Bjorvatn B, Stangenes K, Oyane N, Forberg K, Lowden A, Holsten F, Akerstedt T. Randomized placebo-controlled field study of the effects of bright light and melatonin in adaptation to night work. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2007 Jun;33(3):204-14.
- Buysse DJ, Reynolds CF 3rd, Monk TH, Berman SR, Kupfer DJ. The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index: a new instrument for psychiatric practice and research. Psychiatry Res. 1989 May;28(2):193-213.
- Chaput JP, Tremblay A. Sleeping Habits Predict the Magnitude of Fat Loss in Adults Exposed to Moderate Caloric Restriction. Obes Facts 2012;5:561–566.
- Nielsen LS, Danielsen KV, Sørensen TI: Short sleep duration as a possible cause of obesity: critical analysis of the epidemiological evidence. Obes Rev 2011; 12: 78–92.
- Sadeghniiat-Haghighi K, Aminian O, Pouryaghoub G, Yazdi Z. Efficacy and hypnotic effects of melatonin in shift-work nurses: double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial. J Circadian Rhythms. 2008 Oct 29;6:10.
- Sharkey KM, Fogg LF, Eastman CI. Effects of melatonin administration on daytime sleep after simulated night shift work. J Sleep Res. 2001 Sep;10(3):181-92.