We all know a good night’s sleep has countless benefits. It’s our means of daily recovery and aids in long-term disease prevention, but its impact on weight loss is often overlooked! Poor sleep has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression, and is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. When your sleep is less than top notch, it’s common to notice changes in mood, attention, and alertness, but you’re also likely to feel hungrier, eat more often, and make less than desirable food choices. Even your energy levels in your day and in your workouts can take a hit.
So how can you make the most of your slumber, get your best rest, and avoid the negative effects of sleep deprivation? Let’s take a look at the basic principles for finding sound sleep…
- Create a comfortable sleep environment
You might find it easier to settle down at the end of the day if you get to climb into a bed that isn’t surrounded by clutter or reminders of the things you have to do the next day. It’s recommended that you keep your work spaces and sleep spaces separate, and make sure your bedroom is designed for comfortable sleep. This includes finding a comfortable temperature, the right balance of light in the bedroom, and plugging in devices like humidifiers or white noise machines – anything to make you feel relaxed and comfortable.
- Establish a calming bedtime routine
Our bodies love routine. When you commit to a bedtime routine, you are regulating your internal clock and signaling to your body that it’s time to sleep. Are there things that you need to do each night before bed? Maybe you need to brush your teeth, wash your face, prep your breakfast for the next day, make your to-do list, etc. Try to create a routine for yourself that includes these tasks, and to really make it count, do them at the same time each night!
- Moderate your caffeine and alcohol intake
Caffeine and alcohol have both been known to drastically disrupt healthy sleep patterns. Caffeine is a stimulant and it can prevent you from falling asleep or cause you to sleep lightly and wake up more frequently throughout the night. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant. It can relax you and make you feel drowsy, and thus is often believed that it will aide sleep. But it also disrupts your sleep patterns and shortens the amount of time that you spend in slow-wave sleep (the stages of sleep that are important for restoration and recovery), causing you to feel unrested when you wake up. In order to avoid being kept awake at night by the stimulating effects of caffeine or lose the restorative effects of sleep due to alcohol, it’s recommended to cut off caffeine and alcohol consumption at least 4 hours prior to sleep.
- Exercise earlier in the day and avoid eating right before bedtime
Have you ever noticed it’s a little bit harder to fall asleep at night if you’ve just finished a large meal or serious late night snack sesh? Your body prefers to digest food in an upright position, and digestion may be slowed by laying down. That means you might not be able to get comfortable and fall asleep until your body finishes digesting! Nighttime exercise is another factor that can keep you up past your bedtime. After an intense workout, your body likes to cool down and calm down, which may cause you to lay awake in bed until your body is ready to call it quits for the day.
Hint: Morning and afternoon exercise can help regulate your circadian rhythm, so try switching your workouts to the morning-time or aim to get out for a lunchtime walk. Incorporating activity into your morning- or day-time routine prepares your body for a full night’s sleep later on.
- Ban electronics from the bedroom
This is probably something you hear all the time, but it’s not something to take lightly (pun intended)! Our phones, tablets, and computers emit blue light, which disrupts our brain’s natural sleep-wake cycles at night by tricking our brains into thinking it’s daytime. You can avoid these harmful effects by keeping your electronics out of your bedroom or setting a time to turn them off in the evenings. If winding down with entertainment is part of your nighttime routine, try swapping out TV for a chapter of a good book or a magazine!
As with any other healthy habit, your sleep patterns won’t be corrected overnight, but if you can commit to working on them each and every day, you may be surprised to see how many areas of your life are improved by quality sleep!
Note: If you are noticing sleep issues that cannot be addressed by these habits, please seek the assistance of your medical team. They know the importance of a good night’s rest too!