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? 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 p.m., but before they know it, they look up and it is 11:15 and they say, “Oh well,” and stay up for another hour!

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

  • Hormone imbalance makes your appetite grow, so you feel 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 bedtime should be? And how much sleep do you really need, particularly if you want your body’s metabolism to work most efficiently?

Find Your Perfect Bedtime

  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 “bedtime,” 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 wake up 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).

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. But the time we can get into bed can vary and can actually be within our control.

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™