(NaturalNews) According to an Irish proverb, a good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book. As far as sleep goes, that may just be true according to three recent studies concluding that good sleeping habits may promote weight loss, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and increase longevity.
In the first study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that although dieters lost the same amount of weight whether they had adequate sleep or not, those who got a full night's sleep lost 55% more body fat than those who cut back on sleep.
The small study followed 10 overweight volunteers on a carefully controlled diet of 1,450 calories for one month. Each participant slept for an average of 7 hours and 25 minutes for two weeks and then 5 hours and 14 minutes for two weeks. When the dieters got two to three hours less sleep, they felt hungrier and produced higher levels of the hormone ghrelin which triggers hunger, increases fat retention and reduces energy expenditures. The result was that they lost more lean body mass than fat.
The researchers believe that had they not been on a strict calorie regimen, the participants would likely have lost less weight, as well as less body fat, during the time they slept less.
In another study published in the Annals of Epidemiology, researchers looked at six years of data from 1,455 people and concluded that those who sleep less than six hours a night may be three times more likely to develop incident-impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG), a pre-diabetic state, compared to those who sleep six to eight hours.
The authors believe their study confirms that sleep quantity and quality are strong predictors of type 2 diabetes, strokes and heart attacks.
Finally, a third study published in Sleep Medicine suggests that the secret to a long life may come with more than five hours of sleep per night but less than eight hours. Looking at data from 459 women from the Women's Health Initiative, researchers found that the best survival rates were enjoyed by women who slept 5 to 6.5 hours.
The message from these studies is clear. The quantity and quality of your sleep can powerfully affect your weight and your risk of diabetes and heart disease, as well as your lifespan.
To insure that you are getting enough good quality sleep, here are seven natural tips for a restful night without prescription sleep aids:
1. Be in bed by 9:30 pm and lights out by 10:30 pm at the latest.
2. Don't drink or eat anything after 7:30 pm so that your sleep is not disturbed by bathroom visits.
3. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
4. Make your bedroom a sanctuary with no television, computer or briefcase allowed.
5. Keep your bedroom dark to get a better, deeper sleep.
6. Don't overheat your room and open a window if possible.
7. Relax for an hour or two before bed without work or watching TV.
Margie King is a certified holistic health coach, Wharton M.B.A. and former corporate attorney. She received her training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Margie leads workshops on nutrition, conducts healthy cooking classes, and offers individual and group health and nutrition coaching to women and busy professionals. For more information and to receive her free report "Bread: What You Need to Know Before Buying Your Next Loaf," check out Margie's website: http://margieking.net/ Read more of Margie's articles as the Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner here: http://www.nottheexaminer.com/x-6753-Philade...