Losing Weight in Your Sleep: How Good Sleep Habits are Vital to Good Health
This is Part 2 of a Two Part Article. You can find Part 1 HERE
How to Adopt Good Sleep Habits
Getting eight hours of sleep is fine in theory, but for most adults, this can be quite challenging. The fast pace of modern lives coupled with a load of sleep-inhibiting habits that are now commonplace in our culture have made getting a full night’s rest increasingly difficult. If you are serious, however, about improving your sleep here are some habits you can adopt that will increase your ability to get a full eight hours in each night
Set a Schedule
Your body sets a natural sleep-wake cycle known as your circadian rhythm. Alternating your sleep-wake cycle even by a couple of hours, however, can mess with your circadian rhythm and make getting enough sleep difficult. In order to maintain a consistent circadian rhythm, it is recommended that you go to bed at the same time each night, wake up at the same time each morning, and avoid napping throughout the day. Even on the weekends or other days you might typically sleep in, it’s best to stick to your same schedule. To maintain your circadian rhythm, consistency is key.
Manage Light Exposure
When it’s dark out, a hormone called melatonin is produced in our brains. The purpose of this hormone is to induce drowsiness and make falling asleep much easier. Even the slightest bit of light, however, can slow or halt the production of melatonin, keeping us alert throughout the night and making it much more difficult to fall asleep.
Up until the last hundred years or so, we didn’t really have to worry that much about light exposure when we were trying to sleep. Once the sun went down, the only lights were the moon and stars, which produced minimal light, especially if you were indoors. Now though, we are faced with an entire assortment of unnatural lights, from nightlights and lamps, to streetlights outside our windows, to an army of electronics in our rooms full of glowing buttons and ports. All combined, it’s certainly enough to make falling asleep a challenge.
In order to increase your production of melatonin, try to eliminate every possible source of light before you go to bed. Cover your windows if there are streetlights outside, and remove all glowing electronics from your bedroom. The darker the room, the easier you will fall asleep. It’s also recommended that you abstain from browsing through your phone or computer right before you try and fall asleep, as the light from your screen will drastically reduce your melatonin production.
Regular exercise has a compounding effect in helping you sleep better. Studies have shown that the more you exercise throughout the day, the better you sleep at night. The better you sleep at night, the more energy you have to exercise the next morning. It’s a beneficial cycle that can really help you with your weight loss goals, and while exercising may not be what you had hoped to sign up for in order to sleep better, it is certainly an important aspect of the process.
Watch Your Pre-Sleep Diet
Like exercise, diet is essential in any weight loss program, but it is also equally essential in order to maintain healthy sleeping habits. This is especially true of what you eat and drink in the evening before you lay down to go to sleep. To start, make sure you steer clear of eating big meals late at night. Heavy meals take a lot of effort for your body to digest and may keep you up at night. Likewise, avoiding drinking too much before bedtime in order to avoid frequent bathroom trips which will interrupt your sleep.
No matter what time of day it is, it is important to cut down on heavily caffeinated drinks. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that can take much longer than one might expect to stop affecting the body—up to ten to twelve hours past when it is first consumed, in fact. Because of this, many people have shown a significant increase in the quality of their sleep after cutting out caffeine.
While these are all important foods and drinks to avoid in order to improve your sleep, there are also some foods that will aid you in falling asleep. The tryptophan found in turkey is great for relaxing the body and making dozing off much easier. If an afternoon nap is part of your family’s Thanksgiving tradition you’ve seen this effect firsthand. Other foods that make great nighttime snacks include granola bars, milk, yogurt, sugar-free cereal, and bananas.
Take Time To Relax
Many people try to go from a mentally or physically engaging activity straight to bed without taking any time to wind down. While some are gifted with the ability to almost fall asleep on command, most of us are unable to go directly from activity to sleep without any kind of relaxation in between. Instead, spend a few minutes to an hour before you go to bed engaged in a relaxing activity such as taking a warm bath, reading a book in dim light, or listening to music.
If you want to take your relaxation up a notch, you might try either hypnosis or progressive muscle relaxation. There are some great tutorials online on both of these methods, and many have found them to be quite effective in improving their sleep.
Should I Take Medication To Help Me Fall Asleep?
In the end, this is a decision that only you and your doctor can make, but generally speaking sleep medication should be avoided if at all possible. Unless you suffer from insomnia or another sleep disorder, most all of your sleep issues can be corrected without medication of any kind. And though sleeping pills will certainly put you out, they may come with a number of unwanted side effects as well, including drowsiness the next morning and dependency just to name a couple.
Even natural sleep aids such as melatonin supplements are not free of side effects and should not be used if you can help it. Instead, try to implement the techniques outlined above and see if they help. If they do not, contact your doctor to help you decide if sleep medication is a good option for you.
Sleeping Off the Pounds
No matter the goals you have for yourself, proper sleep is critical, but this is especially true concerning weight loss. In order to give your body everything it needs to help you burn fat and feel great, make it your mission to improve your sleep quality. The benefits of great sleep are adding up with each study that is published, and you might be shocked to see how much of an improvement to your health a good night’s sleep can be.