Get Your ZZZs!

How many hours a night do you sleep? Do you really know?

I have to say prior to a couple weeks I wasn’t fully aware of how little sleep I was actually getting. I started using an app on my iphone that tracks my sleep patterns and it gives me stats on my bed and wake time, how restless my sleep was and my average sleep time over the period of using the app.

I’m happy to say after just over two weeks of use I am finally up to an average of 7 hours of sleep per night, which isn’t quite to the average recommended 7.5 hours/night.

We all know the obvious impact of not getting enough sleep: grogginess, moodiness, depleted immune system. But did you know that lack of sleep may also affect your ability to lose weight?

Let’s take a look at a couple ways that being deprived of sleep can negatively impact your intentions for a healthy lifestyle:

Eating habits: If you are staying up late working or just watching TV you are far more likely to choose an unnecessary late night snack. On the flip side, when you wake up in the morning and you’re exhausted, anything that can provide quick energy seems like a good choice. Unfortunately that might include a fattening gourmet coffee and sugary danish – not the best way to start your day. Bottom line is sleepiness works against our willpower and will often result in reaching for comfort food instead of nutrient rich healthy foods.

Metabolism: Believe it or not, your body’s metabolism actually is more efficient when you get sufficient amounts of sleep. The science behind it has to do with two hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin tells you when to eat, and with sleep deprivation you have increased levels of it. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop and you have lower levels when sleep deprived. So the equation is simple:

More Ghrelin + Slow Metabolism  + Sleep Deprivation = No Weight Loss or Weight Gain

Motivation: Being tired is a great accelerator for finding reasons to skip a workout. Think about it, your body is already tired, are you really up for putting your everything into a workout that is likely to result in body soreness to top it off? In reality, exercise actually releases chemicals that increase your mood, and energy levels, but I’ll save that for another blog post.

So how do you get more sleep?

  • Set your bedtime and stick to it. Whatever you didn’t get done today will certainly be there tomorrow.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  • Avoid eating near bedtime, especially high-fat heavy foods.
  • Turn off the television and computer at least 30 minutes before bedtime, the bright lights and stimulation can make it difficult to shut down.
  • Avoid exercise too close to bed if it makes it difficult to fall asleep (for some exercise prior to bed does not affect sleep).
  • Try and keep a consistent waking time.
  • Keep your room at a comfortable temperature with adequate bedding. Being too hot or too cold can ruin a good night’s sleep.

I encourage you to create a sleep schedule for yourself and stick to it for a couple weeks. I think you will notice a difference in how you feel and maybe even a change in the numbers on the scale.

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