The promise of losing weight in your sleep may sound like a claim right out of a dubious infomercial. But the truth is that your body does burn calories during slumber, and taking the right steps can increase that burn significantly.
Can you up your sleeping metabolism enough to get thin without other lifestyle changes? Probably not. But with a healthy diet and regular exercise, these tips may be just what you need to help you win the battle of the bulge.
1. Sleep Soundly
It sounds counter-intuitive, but you actually burn more calories during sleep than while lying in bed awake because your brain is highly active during the REM stages. Plus, during REM sleep your internal temperature spikes, which means your body is working harder to produce heat.
As evidence, one Brazilian study found that men lost more than three times as much weight over eight hours of sleep than eight hours of lying awake.
To ensure maximum REM sleep, keep a regular schedule so that your body is used to conking out when you lay down for the night. Turning off the computer or television an hour or two before bed can promote relaxation, as can darkening the room completely when you turn in.
2. Build Your Muscles
The most sure-fire way to burn more calories around the clock is to pump up your muscles with strength-training exercises. You can go for handheld weights or use weight machines at the gym, or work out the no-cost way by doing push-ups, squats, bicycle maneuvers and other calisthenic exercises.
Although it may take a while to build up enough muscle to make a significant difference in overnight calorie burning, over time you can increase your metabolism by as much as 15 percent, according to the CDC. Plus, you'll burn more calories during exercise, as well as several hours afterward.
3. Turn Off the Heater
Some scientists link home heaters to obesity, claiming the simple act of turning down your thermostat may cause several pounds to melt away effortlessly over time. That's because your body must work to create extra heat in cooler climates to maintain a normal body temperature.
The key is a process called non-shivering thermogenesis, which researchers link to brown fat. Unlike the white fat that makes up most of your adipose tissue, brown fat is highly active, burning calories while regulating your internal temperature.
Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. C. Ronald Kahn has studied brown fat, and told The New York Times that it can burn 100 to 200 extra calories a day in colder weather. The effect is strongest when you wear lighter clothing.
While shivering the night away in freezing temperatures is not advised, you can benefit from this thermogenic effect by setting the temperature to the low 60s or simply leaving the heater off on milder nights.
Nina Kate is a certified fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also studied journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has contributed to numerous major publications as a freelance writer. Nina thrives on sharing nutrition and fitness knowledge to help readers lead healthy, active lives. Visit her wellness blog at BodyFlourish.com.