Can Weight Loss be as Easy as Sleep?

By: Suzanne Doerries RD, LD

Sleeping GirlWhen we think of weight loss or health, most of us think of exercise and nutrition. However, sleep plays a very important role. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of continuous sleep EVERY night.

Think about those nights when you don’t sleep well or get at least seven hours. How do you feel the next day? Are you able to think as clearly? Do you have lapses in your attention? Do you over react to situations? Chances are you answered yes to at least one of these questions.

In addition to the above, lack of sleep affects metabolic hormones. It decreases glucose tolerance affecting blood sugar levels.  It also decreases leptin and increases ghrelin. These are two hormones that have an effect on your appetite. Leptin tells the body that we have had enough to eat, while ghrelin tells us to eat. It’s the perfect storm, you are over emotional, don’t have control of your feelings, and feel hungry. How likely are you to make a healthy food choice especially when there is chocolate in the break room at work?  Multiple studies have shown that sleeping less than seven hours each night is associated with an increased BMI.

How can you improve your sleep? The first step is to make it a priority. If you are getting ample sleep you will be able to focus better and accomplish to-dos more efficiently. Here are some other tips to help insure a quality seven to nine hours of shut eye each night.

  • Turn off ALL light producing electronics at least 60 minutes before bed. Having complete darkness is really important to a good night’s sleep. Light affects melatonin levels which will affect your sleep.
  • Set a peaceful timer to remind you to get ready for bed. One of the most common reasons people do not get enough sleep is because they choose to stay up. Whether they get sucked in to a TV show or want to get in extra work the choice is made to stay up.
  • Create a calming bed time routine. You want to be relaxed when you go to sleep, not stressed.
  • Turn down the heat. Most experts say that the best temperature for sleep is between 65 and 68 degrees F. If you get too hot while you sleep you will wake up.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon or at least 6 hours before bed. Caffeine is a stimulant and can affect your sleep schedule.
  • Avoid alcohol. Any amount of alcohol can affect quality of sleep.
  • Exercise early. Exercising in the evening can make it hard for some people to fall asleep.
  • Breathe. Close your eyes. Breathe in and out through your nose without making any noise. You should not be able to hear yourself breathe. Your exhale should be twice as long as your inhale.

Don’t let a lack of sleep be the limiting factor to your health.

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