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Trying to lose weight? Get more sleep

Clinical psychologist and sleep medicine specialist Michael Breus joins "CBS This Morning"
Clinical psychologist and sleep medicine spec... 02:42

If you're trying to shed a few pounds, you may want to start with a better night's sleep. While sleep may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about weight management, experts say it's an essential part of keeping the pounds off.

"We now know that the less you sleep, the more weight you have the ability to gain," clinical psychologist and sleep medicine specialist Michael Breus told "CBS This Morning."

The reason for the connection lies in hormone imbalance. "When you don't sleep enough, your cortisol level rises, which increases appetite," Breus said. This also slows down your metabolism, signaling the body to retain fat to use it as a source of energy. "When you take high appetite and low metabolism and you put them together, it equals weight gain," he said.

While some might think that the longer you stay awake, the more active you are, thus burning more calories, Breus explained the opposite is true. "Since your metabolism slows down, you actually burn fewer calories the longer you're awake," he said. "Also REM sleep is where you actually burn the most calories, and when you stay awake long, you chop off the last part of that last cycle of sleep, which is where most of the REM is."

Napping can be beneficial for some people in making up for lost sleep, but not if you're an insomniac. "If you have insomnia, napping is never a good idea because it prevents you from being able to fall asleep at night," Breus said.

Finally, artificial light may also have a significant effect on weight gain. A recent study found that animals that were exposed to light for 24 hours gained 50 percent more weight than those who were exposed for only 12 hours, even though they ate the same food. Though the study was done in animals, Breus said the effects may be similar in humans. "It's something we need to think about with devices and that exposure that we're getting late in the evening," he said.

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