Who has the time for all that sleep? Find the time. Go to bed an hour earlier and sleep a little later. And it's not just quantity but quality that counts. "It's important to have restful, restorative sleep," Garcia says, cautioning that you won't get it if your body is busy digesting food and/or alcohol at the same time. "When your body is going to sleep, it wants to sleep, not reawaken all the systems that break down food." He recommends keeping alcohol to a minimum and not eating for two or three hours before bedtime: "Otherwise, it causes a very light sleep through the night in which your organs don't get a break" and your blood sugar is on a roller-coaster ride.
What if I can't sleep? You're not alone. More than 60 million Americans suffer from a variety of sleep disorders. "Insomnia is believed to be as much as three times more common in women," says Michael Twery, Ph.D., director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research. See your doctor to determine whether there is a medical cause that can be treated.
Can't I just take a sleeping pill? That will help you physically log the requisite hours in bed, but it might not give you the quality of sleep you need to manage your weight. "Sleep drugs act like neurological sledgehammers," Garcia says, by inhibiting the body's ability to restore itself.
So how can I catch more z's? Calbom and Garcia agree: Reduce or eliminate caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. No late-night meals. No TV just before bed. Warm baths can help, as can meditation and deep-breathing exercises. Garcia often prescribes 5-HTP, calcium, and magnesium.
Does sleep really help shed pounds? Absolutely, says Miller, Garcia's client. "I'm craving less carbs. Exercise is less of a chore. I'm eating more than I did in my 20s and 30s but better-quality food." Best of all: "I've lost 24 pounds."