Sleep plays a key role in your weight loss. The goal is to get 7 - 8 hours of sleep, but you can start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier. Next week you can add another 15 minutes and work your way up to eight. Why? Because if you get less than 6 hours a night you’ll be hungrier and it will be harder to make better choices.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep and Why Does it Matter?
Sufficient sleep usually means seven to eight hours each night. Partial sleep deprivation is defined as less than six hours of sleep for most individuals.
Sleep can affect your weight. It starts with hunger. If you had lunch at noon today then about 4 or 5 you were probably feeling peckish. That’s because a hormone that regulates hunger, Ghrelin, has increased and now you’re hungry. You have dinner and the Ghrelin drops, your no longer hungry. But another hormone, Leptin has kicked in because you’re feeling satisfied and full.
Loss of sleep effects these two hormones so that you are hungrier, your appetite is bigger, you consume more calories and the fat you gain goes to your midsection. Your waist and your health risk have just increased.
Even one sleepless night can affect your food choices. You grab a pastry the next morning without thinking about it. The sleep deprivation has affected your impulse control, judgment and decision making. It’s not that you really wanted it, it was just there. But after a week of less than optimal sleep, you start craving that donut, or your favorite flavor of ice cream. The lack of sleep has now affected your food desires. Even if you’re not overweight, the reward center of your brain is lighting up at pictures of high-calorie foods.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you probably don’t have enough energy to exercise, you’re probably making your food choices for an immediate energy fix (sugar & caffeine) and you’re probably more at risk for negative thinking.
Tips for sleeping well:
Maintain a regular sleep schedule, go to bed and wake up at the same time;
Create a clutter free bedroom and make the bed available for sleeping;
Keep it dark in the bedroom. Dim the alarm clock and turn off the TV or computer (or preferably move it out). Use black out curtains if necessary. Eye masks can also help. Use dim night lights instead of turning on the lights;
Dim the lights throughout the house in the evening an hour before bedtime;
Limit screen time before bed;
Establish a 30-minute soothing routine before bedtime to relax and wind down;
Create the best sleep environment — dark, cool & comfortable;
Avoid disturbing noises — get a fan or white-noise machine (the TV and radio don’t count);
Use the bed for sleep and sex only;
Do not eat or drink too much close to bedtime;
Exercise daily; and
Change the sheets more often and make the bed. It has nothing to do with society’s expectation; it actually does feel better.
As we age, our sleep changes so here are some tips for promoting sleep as
Exercise in the afternoon;
Avoid alcohol in the later evening; and
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine for at least 3 or 4 hours before bed.
If getting 7-8 hours of sleep seems impossible, you can increase your sleep one small step at a time. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier and get up 15 minutes later. 15 minutes isn’t too much to ask for, is it?
Don’t give up your sleep to build another good habit. There are numerous articles about ways to get your exercise if you’re busy and usually one of the suggestions is to get up earlier, but since we are already a sleep deprived nation, which would just be stealing from one healthy habit to build another. In the end you probably would end up with neither. Get your sleep so that you have the energy and ability to make the other healthier decisions in your life.
Tips for the Mental Side of Getting More Sleep
Your physical environment and bedtime routine aren’t the only things that affect your sleep. Your thoughts, worries, and stress can also have you tossing and turning at night. Here are some tips to help with the mental side of getting sleep. Whether you have difficulty getting to sleep or wake up and can’t get back to sleep here are some things to try:
If you are worrying about something you’re supposed to be doing, ask yourself if you’re willing to get out of bed and work on it right then. If not (and I doubt you will be), then accept the fact you’ve chosen not to act and let the shoulds and have tos go for the moment. The morning is soon enough to take up the worry and stress again.
Exercise. You will sleep better and longer if you get your exercise in.
Some people suggest writing your to-do list the night before so that you empty your brain of all those tasks; while others suggest that the evening to-do list causes more stress and worry. Try the evening to-do list, but stop if it isn’t working for you.
Instead of counting sheep, count your blessings. Find the wonder and beauty in your day, no matter what’s happened. You’ll fall asleep in a positive, grateful mood.
If you’re going to watch TV or a movie before bed, watch something fun or light. TV/movies that show the worst in people (violence, greed, etc.) establish a negative mood that brings out depression and doubts.
End your day in the same mood that you want to start your next one. For more ideas to help increase and improve your physical surroundings and get your sleep go to the National Sleep Foundation.
Check out their website Inside Your Bedroom: Use Your Senses, www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom. You will find suggestions that involve taste, smell, hearing, visual, touch. You can also read more about Understanding Sleep from the National Institutes of Health.
One more tip if you have trouble falling asleep: It’s a trick I learned in a class I took on helping my organizing clients who have Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) — lay on your back and hold your arm up (straight out from your body). Focus on keeping it up. That’s it. Just focus on keeping it up. It works for individuals with ADHD because falling asleep can be boring and this provides a focus. It works for anyone who’s mind is racing by giving them something to think about that isn’t work, problems or worries.
If you’re one of the 40 million Americans who suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders each year then definitely ask a specialist for help. Your sleep affects your productivity, your weight, and your health.