Weight loss is usually linked to changes in diet and exercise. But if you really want to shed those pounds you should also consider altering your sleep patterns, a study claims.
Scientists have found that you can double your chances of reaching your target weight if you get between six and eight hours sleep a night.
If you have any more, you will become too inactive and if you have any less your stress levels will increase along with cravings for unhealthy food.
The research in Portland, USA, by Kaiser Permanente, a health care consortium, found that people trying to lose at least 10lb were more likely to reach their goal if they had lower stress levels and slept moderately.
Nearly 500 obese adults with an average age of 55 took part in the study.
They were asked to attend 22 counselling sessions, reduce their diet by 500 calories a day and increase the amount of exercise they took to at least three hours a week.
They also had to keep a diary of their habits, including their sleep patterns and stress levels.
After six months, 60 per cent of the participants had lost at least 10lb.
Researchers found that the successful dieters were more likely to report that they had slept between six and eight hours each night.
Almost three quarters of dieters who had both low stress levels and six to eight hours sleep a night were likely to achieve the 10lb weight loss target.
They were also twice as likely to be successful as participants who reported the highest stress levels and got six or less hours sleep a night.
"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," said lead author Dr Charles Elder.
"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, mindbody techniques such as meditation also might be helpful."
The study has been published in the International Journal of Obesity.