Few people realize that sleep and weight are connected. Science has taught us that sleep impacts hormones that regulate hunger and the feeling of being full or satisfied when eating. Unfortunately, lack of sleep can cause unnecessary and unplanned weight gain. When people approach me asking for help with weight management, the very first question I ask them is, “how is your sleep?”
If you are interested in weight loss, gain, or just managing a healthy weight, sleep should be a high priority. Here are some tips and tricks to improving sleep. You may be able to lose some weight by starting with healthy sleep habits.
- Try to keep a regular schedule as much as possible. That includes the time you go to sleep and the time you wake up. Your weekends might allow you to stay up later. Try to get to sleep as close to your week-day times and don’t sleep in several hours past the time you would normally wake up during the week. We all have our own internal rhythm and disturbing this will also disturb hormones that regulate sleep and hunger.
- Make sure that the environment you sleep in is dark, cool, and free of noises that will wake you up unnecessarily. Consider a “white noise” machine or fan if that helps drown out noise.
- Don’t go to bed really hungry or too full. You are better to go to sleep with less in your stomach. Digestion takes work for your body and can increase body temperature. Cooler is better for good sleep.
- Limit your exposure to electronics a few hours before bed. If you like to read before bed, I would suggest that you stick to the old school version of good-old-fashioned books.
- Don’t take your phone with you to bed. Commit to plugging it in somewhere else. Get a regular alarm clock so that you no longer can use that as an excuse to sleep with your phone.
- Don’t hang out where you sleep. Simple as that. Don’t lie where you sleep working on your Ipad, laptop, or watching TV. Use the space for sleep.
- Manage your stress as best as possible. A tool that works well for me is to keep a notepad by my bed. It’s inevitable that when your head hits the pillow that you might start thinking about all kinds of stuff. I use pen and paper to help me “park” all the stuff I need to remember or worry about so that I know I can pick it up in the morning. Laying around thinking and worrying about it doesn’t do anyone any good. Either get up and do something about it, or pick it up in the morning.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants. If you must have it, consume it before noon.
- Make sure to get regular, vigorous physical activity. If you increase the intensity of your workouts you might find that doing vigorous activity may be better for you in the morning. Some people find they are wide-awake if they exercise vigorously within a few hours of bedtime. Also, increasing the intensity of your activity can significantly affect your post exercise oxygen consumption as well as affect your hormones so be aware of this – it might mess with your sleep!
- I recommend trying to get as much of your exercise during daylight hours and do it outside in the fresh air if possible. If you live where I live, you might be forced to exercise indoors because the roads are so ridiculously icy you can’t even get down to the end of your driveway without taking a spill. However, when possible, get outside.
- Don’t take naps. If you are so exhausted during the day that you have to take a nap – don’t do it. You are better off to move your bedtime earlier if you are inclined to take naps.
- Avoid shift-work if possible.