Forget eating clean or sweating it out to P90X -- the next weight-loss trend is in your bedroom.
According to a new commentary published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), adding adequate sleep as a weight-loss measure is just as important as diet and exercise.
Research cited in the commentary makes correlational links between poor sleep and difficulty losing weight.
"The solution [to weight loss] is not as simple as 'eat less, move more, sleep more,'" writes Dr. Jean-Phillippe Chaput of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Quebec, Canada. "However, an accumulating body of evidence suggests that sleeping habits should not be overlooked when prescribing a weight-reduction program to a patient with obesity."
The studies mentioned in the commentary show that adults who decreased their sleep time while on a calorie-restricted diet did not lose as much weight as those who got adequate sleep. In one study, those who got around 6 hours of sleep lost less body fat than those who got over 8 hours of sleep.
This has not been the first time researchers have found a link between sleep and weight loss. In 2010, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a study that showed dieters who slept poorly lost less body fat than those who got enough sleep. Improved sleep quality also helped women lose weight more successfully in a 2012 study reported in the journal Obesity.
What this means for you
While the evidence is not concrete, mounting evidence suggests sleep is crucial for improved weight loss, and in some cases, body fat reduction. You have probably experienced the effects of sleep on weight loss firsthand: After a day or two of sleep deprivation, you've started to eat more food because you feel hungrier. This only emphasizes the role of sleep when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.
If you are dieting, take this trend to heart -- get enough sleep to make weight loss easier. While it isn't a magic cure that will make you thin, getting enough sleep may make it easier to stick to your diet plan, speeding up weight loss. The Mayo Clinic recommends that most adults aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep; women who are pregnant may require more sleep, due to the demands of pregnancy.
But even if you don't need to lose weight, getting enough sleep is important: Being sleep deprived can affect mood and concentration levels, putting a damper on your work and social life.
Ann Olson is a freelance writer with a professional background in nutrition. She previously consulted personal trainers and supplement companies.