Most of us aren’t sleeping enough. More surprising is the last few pounds you can't seem to lose are likely a direct result of sleep deprivation. Read on to find out why you need to prioritize sleep and my top ways to improve sleep quality.
Until last year I was often guilty of staying up too late. I would scroll through social media, stay too late at social events, and watch quality television like The Bachelor. The morning would quickly roll around, and I'd hit the snooze button a dozen times.
Experts suggest adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Still over 35% of us sleep less than 7 hours a night. Sleep deprivation and oversleeping are linked to diseases like obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and heart failure.
5 Signs You Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep
- You frequently crave high-calorie foods and have difficulty controlling your appetite
- You have trouble concentrating, remembering things, and/or making decisions
- You frequently get moody or feel helpless
- You take a lot of sick days
- You have low energy and struggle with motivation to workout or finish a workout
Why Lack of Sleep Makes it so Hard to Lose or Maintain your Weight
- Levels of the stress hormone cortisol elevate while insulin sensitivity drops. This causes your body to store the food you eat as fat.
- The hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, that control our ability to regulate appetite and fullness are disrupted. If you ever wondered why you were still hungry or not quite satisfied right after a meal, your sleep habits could be to blame.
- Lower concentrations of growth hormone (GH) are released. GH is responsible for muscle and cell regeneration. Less sleep means slower recovery from workouts and reduced strength and muscle gains.
- Insulin levels increase, slowing metabolism and increasing fat storage.
How to Sleep Better
- Find your natural circadian rhythm or internal clock:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day give or take an hour. The hardest part is often just getting into bed. I set the Fitbit app to alert me at 9:30pm to start getting ready for bed. Choose a bedtime and stick to it.
- Go outside in natural sunlight for 10 to 30 minutes first thing in the morning or during your lunch break.
- Make the room as dark as possible. Get blackout curtains, unplug electronics, and put electrical tape over any lights.
- Avoid screen exposure 30-60 minutes before bed and instead opt for a non-digital book.
- I use apps like f.lux and Night Shift to dim the screen and block the blue light that has been shown to suppress melatonin, disrupting sleep.
- Write down your priorities for the next day to avoid restless thoughts.
- Exercise regularly but nothing too intense close to bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine after 2pm and have no more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks. Read these posts for more questions on caffeine or alcohol.
- Eat mostly lean protein and vegetables during the day. At dinner have complex carbs like sweet potato to promote sleep.
- Eat your last meal at least 2 to 3 hours before bed and make it on the lighter side.
- Take a hot shower or magnesium Epsom bath. I take a magnesium supplement before bed.
- Keep the temperature of your bedroom cool, try somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees F.
As with any new goal, it needs to become part of who you are as a person. Break down your goal into manageable actions you can begin today. Start by getting into bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier each night until you are regularly sleeping the recommended 7 to 9 hours. Eventually, it becomes habit and it's just part of your routine. Sleep more and enjoy more energy to exercise, to focus on work, and to choose healthy unprocessed foods. This will not only get you to your goal transformation but a more fun and happier life.
"Effect of Short Sleep Duration on Daily Activities --- United States, 2005--2008." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 Mar. 2011. Web. <https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6008a3.htm>.
Gallicchio, Lisa, and Bindu Kalesan. "Sleep duration and mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Journal of Sleep Research 18.2 (2009): 148-58. Web. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19645960>.
Orzeł-Gryglewska, Jolanta. "Consequences of sleep deprivation." International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health 23.1 (2010): 95-114. Web. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20442067>.
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