Do you want to increase your chances of losing weight, reduce your stress level and get adequate sleep.  Inadequate sleep has been previously linked to an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart disease.

A new study conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that people trying to lose at least 10 pounds were more likely to reach that goal if they reduced their stress levels and slept at least six hours, but not over  eight hours a night.

The study was funded by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and published in the March 29, 2011 edition of the International Journal of Obesity.

According to the study’s lead author, Charles Elder, MD, MPH, “This study suggests that when people are trying to lose weight, they should try to get the right amount of sleep and reduce their stress.”  He is a researcher with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon.  He also is the head of Integrative Medicine at Kaiser Permanente Northwest. “Some people may just need to cut back on their schedules and get to bed earlier. Others may find that exercise can reduce stress and help them sleep. For some people, mind/body techniques such as meditation also might be helpful.”

Researchers Monitor Health Habits

Almost 500 people, members of Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and Washington participated in the research.  During the study, their sleep, stress, depression, television viewing, and computer screen time were monitored and correlated with weight loss. Earlier research studies have determined a link between these factors and obesity, but few have evaluated if these factors can predict weight loss.

The study was divided into two phases: during the phase one, participants were asked to lose at least 10 pounds over six months. If they succeeded, they moved to the second year-long phase of the study, which tested a complementary acupressure technique against more traditional weight-maintenance strategies. Findings from phase two are not yet available.

During the study’s first phase, every  participant attended weekly meetings where they were advised to reduce calorie intake by 500 calories per day, adopt a low-fat, low-sugar diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, increase physical activity to 180 minutes a week, and keep daily food records and weighed.  The participants who maintained a more detailed food diary, and attended more meetings were more likely to lose weight during this phase of the trial.

Stress and sleep are good predictors of future weight loss

The participants also were asked to report levels of stress and depression, insomnia and to record how much time they slept, spent watching television or using a computer. The researchers  determined  that sleep and stress levels were good predictors of weight loss, while  depression and screen time were not.

Those with the lowest levels of reported stress, who slept more than six hours, but not more than eight hours were most likely to lose at least 10 pounds. In fact, nearly 75 per cent of this group moved on to the second phase of the trial, and were twice as likely to be successful as those who got six or fewer hours of sleep per night  and experienced the highest stress levels and.

Qualifying participants for the second phase were divided into two groups: one group met every month with a trained interventionist and a support group, and used traditional nutrition and exercise techniques to keep weight off.  The second group’s members received monthly guided instruction in the Tapas Acupressure Technique, which involves lightly touching specific pressure points on the face and back of the head while focusing on a problem (i.e., maintaining weight loss). The groups met for six months and then were followed for another six months to see which group kept more weight off. Results of that phase of the trial should be available in late 2011 or early 2012.


C R Elder, C M Gullion, K L Funk, L L DeBar, N M Lindberg, V J Stevens. Impact of sleep, screen time, depression and stress on weight change in the intensive weight loss phase of the LIFE study. International Journal of Obesity, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2011.60