When it comes to physical fitness, body composition and health; sleep is just as important as drinking water, eating healthy and getting exercise. Being well rested is a key component in weight loss/management and leads to overall better health.
Poor and insufficient sleep alter hormone levels in the body that help to regulate hunger and satiety. Lack of sleep can make us eat more during our waking hours, and also drive us to crave less healthful foods. The amount of good sleep a body gets is directly related to maintaining a healthy diet and muscle to body fat ratio.
Everyone needs 7.5 hours +/-30 min of sleep in order to function optimally and maintain health. The average American gets 6.5 hours. Sleep expert, Dr. Kirk Parsley, says that when we aren’t getting adequate sleep, we are impaired to the degree of being mildly drunk.
"Sleeping well optimizes your ability to control your metabolism throughout the day. Good athletic performance, work performance and being a high-functioning parent and spouse—are not going to be in reach when stress and inflammation become chronic. Performance, concentration, memory and mood are all going to suffer. Anxiety will thrive. Body composition will also suffer despite all the training (meaning less lean muscle mass and a high body-fat percentage) If for 7 consecutive days you will make sleep your number one priority — you will then learn that sleep is the most important thing for your performance and health." Dr. Kirk Parsley
Once we make sleep quantity a priority, how can we get to sleep faster as well as improve our quality of sleep? 1. Totally dark room (use blackout curtains, sleep mask, whatever it takes! Put your alarm clock in a drawer). 2. Cool room (between 64 - 68 degrees). If you have trouble regulating your body temperature during sleep, look into a product like THIS. 3. Quiet room Earplugs if necessary. White noise: fans, sound machine, etc. 4. Don’t exercise or work 1-2 hours before bed. Stimulating the mind and body makes it more difficult to sleep. 5. Spend some time winding down your brain (reading, relaxing, meditating, breathing, stretching etc.) *TV does not wind down the brain!) 6. Avoid caffeine past noon. 7. Avoid a heavy meal before bed. Our bodies are set up to be awake, eating and moving during the day; and sleeping and fasting overnight. Your body is most comfortable digesting food in an upright position, allowing it to absorb food easily. if you’ve eaten a large meal immediately before going to bed, you’re not giving the digestive system adequate time to rest, and your digestion continues while you’re asleep. As a result, you may wake up with sleep-disrupting symptoms. Lack of sleep can also cause or worsen digestive issues....so it becomes a vicious cycle. 8. Avoid habit-forming sleep medications if possible. Instead, look into natural sleep remedy supplements like THIS ONE. Substances that may interfere with good sleep If deficient include: Melatonin, L-tryptophan, 5-HTP, Magnesium, Vitamin D3. *Don't take supplements without medical advice or without researching appropriate dosages, side effects, etc. 9. Reduce/eliminate sugar and processed foods from your diet. Eating an overall healthy and nutrient-rich diet affects our brain health and activity — and in turn, our sleep, she explains. “Eating healthy and allowing the body to absorb proper nutrients provides the brain with the chemical environment that it needs to produce the neurotransmitters that it needs to maintain adequate sleep. 10. Limit electronics before bed and get rid of electronics in the bedroom. Light streaming into our eyes, long after the sun has gone down tells our brain and body that it's still time to be active. Electric "blue" lighting interferes with production of melatonin, and the necessary reduction of the brain chemicals keeping us alert. Staring at a bright screen for an hour at night has a 3-day affect on sleep quality.
If you simply can't avoid evening computer work: f.lux: Install this FREE program on your computer. The f.lux program slowly shifts the color tones of your computer to block sleep-disrupting, melatonin thwarting blue light. Simply tell it when you want to get up, and it makes all the adjustments for you!
Invest in blue light blocking glasses. Put them on a few hours before bed, especially when viewing electronics, and your sleep and life will thank you. Read more about sleep from Dr. Parsley HERE. Watch Dr. Parsley's TED talk:
To get more sleep and to sleep better it will likely take a sacrifice. You may have to skip that late night TV show, reduce time on social media, or decline an offer for a late night outing with friends. Don’t stay awake for anything that you wouldn’t get up early for! If you really want to watch one more episode of your Netflix show, tell yourself you can watch it early in the morning if you wake up naturally after sleeping enough. Your challenge this month: Make sleep a top priority. Even if you can try getting to sleep 15 minutes earlier— by the end of a month you’ve given yourself a whole extra night of sleep! To improve your sleep quality, start with something simple in the list above.