Between work stress, family dynamics, and non-stop news cycles, it’s easy to understand why many people are chronically sleep deprived. Coffee is the world’s most popular drink for a reason! While we know that sleep is important, we often underestimate the value of sleep. If you’re trying to improve your overall health and lose weight, not getting enough sleep may be the missing link that’s preventing you from reaching your goals.
The Connection Between Sleep and Weight
You’ve probably heard that most adults need about 8 hours of sleep to function optimally. Not getting enough sleep is linked to many health issues, including weight gain 1. While the link between poor sleep and weight gain are still being studied, not getting enough sleep and negatively impact your metabolism, cause hormonal changes that increase feelings of hunger, and lead to exhaustion, which is linked to less physical activity and over overeating 1. While weight loss typically focuses on counting calories and exercising, getting enough sleep is just as important to help you reach your health goals.
What’s Affecting Your Sleep
Too much stress
You lay your head down on your pillow, but your mind won’t stop chattering. Maybe you replay events or conversations that happened throughout the day, or you can’t stop thinking about a work or family issue. Learning to quiet your mind and let go of things that are bothering you is an important part of getting restful sleep. If you find your mind racing at night, look into techniques that will help you learn mindfulness, such as meditation apps or online mindfulness classes. Some people also find white noise relaxing. If your racing mind is a serious, chronic problem and you think you may have anxiety or depression, speak to your doctor. There are therapy techniques and other medical interventions that can help you overcome your symptoms and sleep more easily.
Too much screen time
Did you know that exposure to blue light inhibits your body’s ability to produce melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates your sleep? 2 Scrolling through your phone or watching Netflix on your laptop right before bed will make it harder for you to fall asleep because the screens produce blue light. Put the technology away about two hours before bed to ensure your melatonin production isn’t negatively impacted by your screen time. You may also find it easier to quiet your mind when you’re constantly scrolling through your newsfeed for the latest headlines.
Undiagnosed medical issues
If you chronically have trouble sleeping or you get a full 8 hours of sleep and still wake up groggy, speak to your doctor right away. There may be an undiagnosed medical issue that’s affecting your sleep. A common but dangerous issue with sleep apnea, which causes difficultly breathing while sleeping. Your doctor will be able to diagnose the issue and create an appropriate treatment plan for your needs.
How to Improve Your Sleep
Create a routine
Keeping a consistent schedule will train your body, so it’ll be ready to fall asleep. Keeping a varied sleep schedule is one of the worst things you can, if you want to improve your sleep! Regardless of whether it’s a weekday or the weekend, try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. A relaxing bedtime routine will also help your body wind down after a long time and prepare for sleep. For example, a warm bath or shower will help relax tense muscles and promote restfulness.
If you’re used to endlessly scrolling through Instagram or checking your emails before bed, it’s time to change your habits. Put the technology away at least two hours before bed to reduce your exposure to blue light and quiet your mind. If you’re used to watching Netflix before bed as a distraction, try reading a book or listening to a podcast or audiobook instead.
Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep. When you exercise doesn’t matter, as you’ll experience the benefits regardless of what time you can fit a workout into your busy schedule. Some people find that intense exercise is too stimulating at night, which means a soothing exercise routine, such as yoga, stretching, or walking, may be better choices for an evening activity.
Be mindful of your eating habits
Snacking at night or drinking coffee or alcohol can negatively impact your sleep. Avoid eating dinner right before bed, especially if you struggle with heartburn. If you can’t resist a late night snack, a piece of fruit or a few crackers are better choices than heavy foods that are more difficult to digest. While your morning cup of coffee is okay, avoid drinking caffeinated drinks past noon so they don’t interrupt your sleep. And while alcohol can make you feel sleepy at first, it’ll significantly reduce the quality of your sleep.
Create a comfortable environment
Your bedroom should be dark, quiet, and relatively cool. Being in a room that’s too bright, loud, and warm will make it much more difficult to fall asleep. If you work from home regularly, avoid working in your bedroom. It’s important to train your body to associate your bedroom with sleep and not stressful activities like work.
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