You want to lose weight, so you focus on diet and exercise, right? Both are vital to shedding excess fat, but if you’re not getting enough quality sleep, you’re fighting an uphill battle.
If fat loss is your goal, you’re very likely to be wearing any sleep deficit all over your body. And if you sleep less than six hours two nights in a row, you’re sleep deprived.
We all know how hard it is to make good food choices when we’re knackered. And there’s a good physiological reason for this.
There are two hormones affected by sleep that have a lot to say about our waistline. Ghrelin is the hunger gremlin, and tells us to EAT EAT EAT! Leptin is the sensible hormone that tells us when it’s time to stop eating. When you’re not getting enough sleep, ghrelin will flourish while leptin is hindered.
So if you’re really tired and have a voracious appetite, take some comfort in the knowledge that you’re actually biologically wired that way (and then go to bed).
How much sleep do we really need?
Everybody’s sleep requirement is different, but most will be at their best with seven hours of sleep a night.
I know, I know. It feels like an impossible dream to me most of the time too.
Sleep debt is just like credit card debt. If you nip it in the bud early, it probably won’t get on top of you. But let it chronically pile up, and you will really start to pay the price.
A great place to start is cleaning up your sleep hygiene to make your environment more conducive to a good night’s sleep.
11 tips for getting more and better sleep
1) Sort out your health
First things first, you need to get on top of any health problems that may be impacting your sleep. Conditions such as sleep apnoea or thyroid issues can really impact your ability to have a restful night’s sleep. And I know it’s a cruel paradox, but losing excess weight is one of the best ways to improve your sleep quality!
2) Same bedtime and wake-up time everyday
Personal trainers are terrible at this! This is of course a huge struggle for shift workers too. Going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day is important for setting your biological clock. It can be tough to do, especially if you’re tempted to catch up on sleep on the weekends. But if sleep quality is an issue for you, it is worth trying.
3) Sunshine in the morning
As early as you can in the morning, get outside for your Vitamin D hit. Being in the sunshine in the morning helps set our circadian rhythm, letting our bodies know that now is the time to be awake.
4) No caffeine in the afternoon
Make after 2pm a no caffeine zone. Caffeine too late in the day makes it harder to get to sleep and keeps us in the lighter phase of sleep. Herbal teas are great in the evening to help you wind down or if you need a hot drink after dinner.
Getting a workout in everyday, even if that means a half hour walk, will really help your sleep. Some experts will say the morning is the best time for exercise to aid sleep, but I say any time of the day that suits you is a great time to workout. A few stretches or yoga can also be a relaxing part of your bedtime routine.
6) No alcohol close to bedtime
Booze may help send you off to sleep quickly, but it is disruptive to sleep later in the night as you begin to metabolise the alcohol. Anyone who has passed out after overimbibing, only to wake up a couple of hours later with a dry mouth will know what I’m talking about.
7) No heavy meals before bed
Going to bed feeling full can not only cause heartburn, making it hard to nod off, the digestive demands of a big meal will keep you awake and reduce your sleep quality. I recommend a two hour break after eating before you hit the sack. Consider making lunch the biggest meal of the day and eating a lighter dinner.
8) Only sex and sleep in bed
The bedroom is for two things only. It is not for working on your laptop, watching TV, or checking facebook on your phone. Making your bedroom a no screen zone will improve both your sleep and your love life!
9) Try a magnesium supplement
Many people find it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep through the night when they have a magnesium drink 30 minutes to an hour.
10) Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary
If there is a lot of light or noise pouring into your bedroom, your sleep quality will be affected, if it doesn’t wake you up altogether. Invest in window coverings that keep your room dark and quiet. Make sure the room is a comfortable temperature, too. A little cool with a few comfy layers on the bed is conducive to sleep.
11) Stop sleep procrastination
I am a shocker with this one. We really need to prioritise sleep over less important activities. Do I really need to watch another hour of Netflix? Sometimes we are so exhausted that it can be hard to get off the couch and go to bed. Ridiculous! If you have finished your important tasks for the day and are tired, just go to bed.