There is a strong link between sleep loss and weight gain. The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep every night for optimum performance and proper brain function to avoid mental fog and poor decision making. Without adequate rest, the body’s metabolism changes, higher levels of the stress-hormone cortisol are released and the need to consume more calories increases.
It should be obvious that if you’re awake for more hours during the night, you need more food to keep you going. But interestingly, studies have shown that most sleep-deprived individuals crave certain kinds of foods—namely calorie-rich sugary desserts, potato chips and other unhealthy carbs that can lead to obesity, diabetes and a variety of illnesses.
Here are seven easy ways to start getting quality sleep and love your body:
1. Develop a regular sleep routine.
Go to bed and get up close to the same time. This helps set your body’s internal clock to regulate hormone levels.
2. Take an extra half-hour prior to bedtime to unwind and relax.
Quiet your mind and ready for sleep. Avoid watching news, action-packed movies or working at your computer (which emits a bright light that disrupts the release of melatonin, a hormone that signals the body’s natural circadian rhythm to slow down). Instead listen to music, read, soak in a warm bath, give yourself a foot massage (or exchange massages with your spouse).
3. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
It should be used as your sanctuary for only 2 things: sex and sleep.
4. Don’t drink before bed.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol within four hours of going to bed.
5. Don’t eat anything heavy before bed.
Avoid consuming heavy meals within three hours of bedtime.
6. Ditch the alarm clock!
Try to wake up with natural light rather than an alarm clock, which halts sleep abruptly and can increase blood pressure. (Yikes!)
7. Choose healthy, balanced snacks if you need extra fuel.
Try a nut butter (almond or cashew) spread on slices of apple, pear or celery. Or try a handful of walnuts and frozen grapes (great for summer!), a smoothie with protein powder and honey for sweetener, or crispy raw vegetables (like carrots or snap peas).
If you feel groggy and bleary-eyed most mornings, chances are good you’re not getting adequate sleep even if you’re in bed the right number of hours.
Notice what’s keeping you awake. Is your spouse tossing too much or snoring? Do you allow a pet in bed? Is physical pain or uncontrollable thoughts keeping you stressed and wide-eyed? You’ll need to address these disturbances. (You may need the support of a good coach to help resolve issues and train you in more healthful habits.) In the end, when you develop a properly balanced sleep cycle, you’ll feel clear-headed, full of vitality and energy and you may even slim down.