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Sleep Series Part 1: How Poor Sleep Can Cause Excess Weight

Sleep Series Part 1: How Poor Sleep Can Cause Excess Weight

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Woman stretching after good night's sleep

When you think about losing weight, you probably don’t think about sleeping, and it’s not your fault. Fitness and health communities tend to cover topics such as weightlifting, cardio, what you’re eating, what body type you want, and more, but they hardly ever respect just how important sleep is to your health and weight in the long run. So, the next time you think about skipping your Zzz, consider how your health could be taking the L.  See why below.

What is Good Sleep?

Around seven hours per night can qualify as good sleep. Your body, in general, needs sleep to energize itself and recover from a long day, so if you’re adding a consistent workout routine to your lifestyle, it’s even more imperative to sleep and speed up the healing process. For most of us, sleeping between seven and eight hours is ideal. Six or nine hours might be OK for some, and anything less or more than that can be problematic. There’s very little that can illustrate the importance of sleep better than knowing that on the day our clocks spring forward and we lose an hour of sleep, the average incidence of heart attacks rises over 20% in comparison to a 20+% drop in fall when we get that extra hour of sleep due to the clocks turning back.

The Consequences of Poor Sleep

When you don’t get the requisite number of hours in, your workouts aren’t nearly as productive, your muscles can’t recover as quickly, and your energy to take on the day is depleted. Poor sleep can also increase the production of the hunger hormone known as ghrelin. Studies from the National Institute of Health show that when people sleep for periods of around four hours as opposed to the healthy amount of eight, they tend to want to eat more unhealthy foods the next day. The chemicals in your brain spur you to eat more to replenish your energy, which can subsequently lead to weight gain. Those with a better sleep schedule tended to last longer without wanting to eat. It’s simple: you’ll want to eat less when you sleep well.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to develop consistency between when you go to bed and when you want to wake up. An alarm should be the last resort as it’s not a natural or calming noise to wake up to. If you need to get up early to hit the gym or work, get into bed at nine. Don’t feel guilty about sleeping in if your work schedule is more flexible. More hours of sleep mean more calories burned, recovery time, and energy.

Good sleep hygiene:

Sleep hygiene is not about brushing your teeth or wearing deodorant in bed, it’s about how to sleep correctly. You can do this by darkening your room as much as possible. TVs, phones, and even a streetlamp shining through your curtains can throw you off and must be turned off or blocked. Studies show that the production of melatonin, a compound that helps your body regulate sleep, can decrease by 50% when exposed to artificial lights.

Noise is another crucial factor in proper sleep. But not all noises have to keep you up at night, and some can put you to sleep. Consider a white noise machine if you have noisy neighbors, a loud dog, or any other noise prohibiting you from sleeping well. White and pink noise has been shown to help people sleep better and improve their memory.

Turn your thermostat down. Our bodies naturally get colder when we sleep; they heat to average temperatures when we wake. So, when you make your room a bit harder, you can quickly fall asleep. Try setting your room temperature in the mid-sixties Fahrenheit, take a warm shower before bed so your body naturally starts cooling once you get out, and make sure your sheets, pillows, and comforter don’t hold in too much heat.

Finally, try not to eat before bed; if you do, keep it light and healthy. Your body works overtime during the day, breaking down everything you’ve eaten and filling your muscles with those nutrients, ultimately replenishing your body. At night, it still works to regenerate and rejuvenate. Be careful not to eat something late at night and stuff yourself, making your body work hard when it’s not expected to. Some healthy options could be turkey slices, apples with a bit of peanut butter for flavor, or cottage cheese with cut fruit.

Stay away from spicy foods or anything processed. You may wish to avoid tomatoes, garlic, and onions, too, as these can disrupt your body’s digestion and even worsen your GERD. Lastly, avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can keep you wired for hours. Instead, try a calming herbal tea like chamomile or mint if you need something hot before bed.

The Bottom Line

There are many benefits to a good night’s sleep, especially when you become consistent at going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time. So, if you’re trying to lose weight, you must remember to fix your sleeping habits. It may not seem as crucial as getting a hard workout or improving your diet, but it is. Try it out and see for yourself.

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