When it comes to weight loss, sleep is often an overlooked factor. Some of us suffer from the misconception that we can get in shape by skimping on sleep and getting up early to work out. But the opposite is actually true. Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do to help you lose weight, so if that means skipping a workout session here and there to get some rest, then that’s OK.
Seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night is the goal for overall wellness. But that much sleep isn’t always easy to come by, given the demanding schedules and daily stresses many of us face.
Lack of sleep can also make it harder to choose healthier meals and snacks. Research has linked poor sleep with increased feelings of hunger during daytime hours, increased portion sizes and more frequent cravings for sugary and fatty foods. Lack of sleep also increases inflammation, putting you at risk of developing serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Here are a few tips for increasing your chances of a better night’s sleep:
Decrease exposure to light at least 1 hour before bedtime. This means taking a break from electronics, like computers, television, tablets and cell phones. The blue light these screens give off is linked to decreased levels of melatonin, the sleep regulation hormone.
There are special blue light blocking glasses you can wear if you must continue to use devices close to bedtime. But the easiest and most cost-effective thing to do is temporarily unplug. Even dimming the lights in your home may help signal to your brain and body that it’s time to start winding down and preparing to sleep.
Establish a nighttime routine. Replace all that screen time with relaxing activities to help you unwind an hour or so before bedtime. You might enjoy taking a warm bath with aromatherapy (lavender oil is great for promoting feelings of calmness), reading a book, journaling, meditating, lighting a candle or stretching. Your routine can be whatever you like, so long as it helps you settle in for the night!
Added bonus: Ending the day on a calming note can help manage your stress levels, which can also in turn help you lose weight.
Skip the midnight snack. Eating too close to bedtime can throw off your body’s internal clock and make sleeping more difficult. The reason this happens is because of the relationship between insulin and melatonin. In a nutshell, higher levels of insulin triggered by eating can decrease melatonin levels. And, as explained above, normal levels of melatonin are needed to signal to the body when it’s time to sleep. So eating close to bed can cause hormonal imbalances that interfere with sleeping.
Late night beverage consumption isn’t recommended, either. Drinking too much of any liquid right before bed might mean you’re in for frequent middle of the night trips to the bathroom — not exactly restful! Although it may seem like a glass or two of wine would help with sleep, alcoholic beverages can actually interfere with melatonin, disrupting sleep.
Consider a sleep supplement. There are many supplements available that can help with sleep. A few that you might want to try include melatonin, magnesium, valerian, passionflower and glycine. While not a cure-alls, they may help promote calmness and sleepiness.
Whenever you are going to try a supplement, start on a weekend night when you don’t have to work or be anywhere the next day. This way, you will know how the supplement will affect you. Also, it's always best to speak to your doctor before starting any supplement routine.
With these few simple strategies you can start sleeping better and reach your weight-loss goals.
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