I have recently made a huge discovery in my life, and I know I’m not the only one when I say this:
I. Need. Sleep!
Yes! School + internship + volunteer work = no time for relaxing, let alone sleeping! I have been living off of coffee and Redbull to try and make myself acceptable to be around. However, at the same time, I was unhappy with my body, and Pilates just wasn’t cutting it. I then decided to wake up even earlier to go running for that extra cardio, and my body got WORSE! I was exercising and eating healthy, yet I was seeing the opposite results. This is when the realization struck me- I’m not getting enough sleep!
It is true; sleep directly correlates with your weight, body image, sanity, and more! Sleep and weight are like a cigarette smoker that takes vitamins and eats healthy- those leafy greens and colorful fruits can’t do enough good to save you from the damage smoking causes! If you don’t sleep well, your body can’t adequately reward you for the good eating and fitness habits you’ve developed!
There are multiple reasons why getting a full night of sleep is so important. For starters, sleep directly affects your ghrelin and leptin levels. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite (Hey brain, I’m hungry!), and leptin is a hormone that signals fullness (Hey brain, stop eating, I’m full!). When you sleep for less than 8 hours, your ghrelin levels rise and your leptin levels decrease. This means you want to eat more and don’t know when to stop! Research has also shown that sleep deprivation increases cortisol levels, the hormone which tells your body to store food as fat. Lack of sleep makes your metabolism sluggish, so cortisol saves the energy for later. See where this is going? More ghrelin makes you eat more, there isn’t enough leptin to tell your brain to stop, and the cortisol and slow metabolism stores the food for later, thus causing weight gain. It’s not a pretty picture.
So what’s the diagnosis? Get more (quality) sleep! Here are 9 tips to help you get those wonderful zzz’s:
- Examine your sleep patterns with an App. Let’s face it, do we really know how much REM (deep) sleep we are getting at night, or how restless of a night we have? There are many apps that solve this problem. I personally use Sleep Time by Azumio in the Apple App Store. It’s very easy to use- set the clock to when you want to wake up, and place your phone face down on the bed, and go to sleep! The app tracks your sleep patterns through the night, and will wake you up at the most optimal time in your sleep cycle (don’t worry- the earliest it can wake you is 30 minutes before your alarm time!). Using graphs and great visuals, you can see exactly how you are sleeping at night! Through the app, I’ve found that I feel the most rested with a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night.
- Don’t just set a bedtime- tell the people around you too! I know that I must wake up at 7AM every M-F to get ready for work, therefore I must go to bed at 11PM to get that 8 hours I (desperately) need. For the longest time, the bedtime never worked. My boyfriend would call, my friends would text, my roommates would want to talk to me- all of these people kept me up, and I felt bad telling them I needed to go to sleep. Well, let me tell you, do it anyway. I promise it isn’t rude! When you tell people about your determinations, you are much more likely to actually follow through because people are expecting it. When people know what your rule is, they will follow it without you having to remind them every time.
- For extra peace, use “Do Not Disturb” mode. Sometimes you have those friends that wake you up at 3AM with a text about some crazy story, or you get those butt-dials at the crack of dawn (no pun intended). Of course turning your phone completely off means you lose your alarm clock and sleep tracking apps. The iPhone has made it easy- do not disturb mode! Turning on that little crescent moon by going to Settings -> Do Not Disturb means you’ll receive texts and calls, but your phone won’t make a sound or vibrate. It will only actually ring if a person is calling you for the second time within 3 minutes (ie, emergency calls). So never fear, you can receive those texts without being woken up by them!
- Enjoy your caffeine fix in the morning only! I love my coffee. I try to stick to just one cup, but sometimes a second just magically appears… you know those days! It’s a wonderful stimulant that makes mornings possible and helps speed up your metabolism. However, there’s a reason why you just don’t seem to feel sleepy by bedtime! Caffeine has a half-life, meaning that after approximately 6 hours half of the caffeine consumed is processed and out of the body. So if you drink 80mg of caffeine at 3PM, there’s still 40mg in your system at 9PM. The more caffeine you consume close to bedtime, the lower the quality of sleep you’ll get.
- Drink more water! You’ve probably heard this a dozen times on every healthy living article you’ve ever read. Believe it or not, water is crucial! If you find that you’re reaching for that second, third, or even fourth cup of coffee just to get through the day (see tip #4), drink more water! For starters, caffeine dehydrates you since it’s a diuretic (facilitates bathroom visits). When dehydrated, we feel sluggish and awful, hence the temptation for another round of Starbucks. Instead, drink a glass of water first. It will help flush your system so that you’ll feel more energetic. By not consuming caffeine in the afternoon/evening, you’ll avoid the problems of being unable to sleep at your bedtime.
- Hungry near bedtime? Eat cherries. We’ve heard many an article claiming “this food torches body fat” and “this food will magically do this,” but here’s a legitimate one. Cherries can help with sleep. Melatonin is a chemical found in the body that regulates your internal clock (when to fall asleep and when to wake up), and its naturally found in cherries. So if you must get that snack before bed, enjoy some cherries fresh, frozen, dried, or even juiced!
- Follow the light of day- make sure your bedroom is dark at night. This may sound silly, but the amount of light in your room at night can affect your sleep. As mentioned in #6, melatonin controls your internal clock. Your body naturally follows the light of day- awake when the sun is up, tired when it’s dark. As the light goes down, more melatonin is released to signal your body to go to sleep. When there is lots of light, your body wants to wake up. If you have light coming in through your window or a bright nightlight, these can hurt your quality of sleep. Use curtains or even buy an eyemask to block out the light so your body will know it’s sleep time and stay asleep.
- Turn off the big ceiling light and turn on the smaller lamp close to bedtime. This also goes along with setting your internal clock. If you have trouble going to bed at a normal hour, help your body wind down and know that’s it’s time to settle for sleep. When it’s close to bedtime, turn off your big room light and turn on a smaller, dimmer light in the room. It’s enough for you to see where your pjs are or read a nice book, but not enough to keep your body stimulated. It’s like working out and immediately going to bed- your body is hyped up with energy from all of the work it just did, so flipping to sleep mode just isn’t easy! Make that transition easier by dimming the lights about 30-60 minutes before bed and relax, read a book, or even have your darling give you a massage!
- Meditate to ease the mind. Many restless nights are the result of anxiety, excitement, and brains that just won’t be quiet! Once you’ve dimmed those lights in #8, use this relaxation time to meditate. Not only does meditating help ease the mind so that you may sleep soundly, it also has numerous health benefits. It lowers anxiety and stress, and increases focus and creativity. You can find a great article from lifehacker.com about meditation here.
There you have it! All in all, better sleep will make weight loss easier. Remember, weight loss comes from a lifestyle- you must combine nutrition, fitness, and mental health to attain it! So keep up those great eating and work out habits by adding sleep to your routine. Make it a priority, much like going to the gym! In the end, we are all happy when we feel rested. Isn’t that what we all want?
What do you think of these tips? Have any tips that work well for you? Share them in the comments!
Peace and love!