The Importance of Sleep and How it Can Affect Your Weight

sleep

 

With National Sleep Awareness Week during the week of March 11, now is the perfect time to talk about the importance of sleep and its connection to weight. The amount of sleep you get can directly impact your health, both mentally and physically, for better or worse.

The Importance of Sleep

When you get enough sleep every day, your overall health benefits — you have the energy you need to get through the day and perform at your best, you feel mentally alert and you experience a more balanced emotional state.

Consistent lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep, on the other hand, can result in energy depletion, decreased productivity, a foggy mental state, imbalanced emotions and even weight gain.

The Connection Between Sleep and Weight Gain

Recent studies have shown a connection between the number of hours a person sleeps and weight gain. These studies suggest that the chances of weight gain increase when an individual gets either less than five hours of sleep or more than nine hours of sleep.

Why the correlation? According to one study, men who were continually deprived of sleep had an increase in their desires for high-calorie foods and their overall calorie intake increased. In another study, women who slept less than six hours or more than nine hours a night were more likely to gain weight compared to women who slept seven hours a night. Yet another study found that sleeping too little prompts people to eat bigger portions of all foods, resulting in weight gain.

Two theories as to why this occurs are:

1. Sleep duration affects hormones that regulate hunger and stimulate appetite. Basically, when we don’t get the proper amount of sleep, we’re hit with a double whammy: our brains crave junk food and lack the impulse control to say no to those cravings.

2) Those who lack for sleep are always fatigued and, therefore, get less physical activity. This can lead to weight gain or interfere with one’s efforts to lose weight.

Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Unfortunately, the number of people getting insufficient sleep and/or not getting the quality of sleep their bodies need to function optimally seems to be increasing. If you fall into the camp of those who need to get a good night’s sleep consistently, try the tips below for improved sleep.

  • Follow a sleep-wake schedule by going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time each day. Be consistent, sticking to it even on weekends. You’ll notice that you feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours during different time frames each day.
  • Exercise during the day. People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel more awake during the day. Regular exercise can also improve the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime ritual that avoids screens for at least an hour before going to bed (this includes the TV, computers and cell phones). Doing so tells your brain that it’s time to wind down and relax. A few ideas to try are reading a book by soft lighting, taking a warm bath, listening to relaxing music or doing simple stretches.
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol in the evening, particularly close to bedtime. Spicy or acidic foods can cause heartburn and alcohol can interfere with your sleep cycle.
  • Be aware of when you consume caffeinated beverages and foods such as tea, coffee, soda and chocolate. Try not to consume them after 2 PM because caffeine can stay in your system for several hours, negatively affecting your sleep.
  • Set a peaceful environment that’s conducive to sleep. Turn out the lights, as darkness signals your body to release melatonin, the natural sleep hormone, while light suppresses it. Also, keep the temperature around 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature is too hot or too cold, it can interfere with sleep patterns.
Sound a bit overwhelming? Take it one step at a time. Pick the tip that’s most appealing to you or that you feel you can easily incorporate into your daily routine and start with that one. Once you’ve successfully implemented it, pick another one and continue adding one at a time at your own pace.Before you know it, you’ll be getting a great night’s sleep every night and reaping the positive mental and physical benefits.

Smart Healthy Eating Strategies to Get You Through the Holidays

healthy eating

 

The holidays are quickly approaching, which means it’s time to plan your healthy eating strategy for the season. Because most holidays are food-focused, they can cause a large intake of calories and throw your otherwise-healthy lifestyle off track.

Prevent the holidays from sabotaging your healthy lifestyle by putting a plan in place for handling all the extra food and drinks that will come your way during the season. Follow the tips below to celebrate guilt-free!

Plan activities that don’t center on food

Whether you’re hosting a holiday gathering or going to someone else’s house, keep some activities in your back pocket to take you away from the snack table. For example, bring a few favorite board games or set up some simple physical activities that children and adults can enjoy, like a bean bag toss or a relay race.

If you enjoy running or walking, sign your family up for a local 5K event. There are always a ton of turkey trots, jingle bell 5Ks and other holiday-themed races at this time of year. If you’ve never done one, you’ll be hooked after your first race!

Not only will these ideas get your mind off food, but they’ll give everyone something fun to do together. And isn’t that really what the holidays are about?

Avoid skipping meals

Many people make the mistake of skipping meals on the day of a holiday party to “save” their calories for the event. Skipping meals is unhealthy, however, as it leads to poor food choices and often results in overeating.

Instead, eat small meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your appetite controlled. When you get to the party, you won’t risk derailing your diet because you’re starving.

Practice mindful eating

The most important thing to practice is being mindful about your food choices and portion control. When you’re mindful about selecting your food, you’ll choose a satisfying portion instead of piling your plate high. You’ll take a small amount of an “indulgent” food to enjoy and balance it out with healthier foods, rather than filling your entire plate with unhealthy choices.

The best part of mindful eating? When you pay attention to what you eat, you’ll actually taste and appreciate your food! Eating mindlessly, on the other hand, always results in the realization that you didn’t enjoy the ton of calories you just consumed.

Make food swaps

As you make your holiday cooking plan, choose your ingredients carefully to keep your dishes on the healthier side. For example, prepare traditional stuffing with whole wheat or whole grain bread rather than white bread. Make a cauliflower mash in place of the traditional mashed potatoes. Substitute whole-wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour in your favorite baking recipes.

Limit your cocktail consumption

The empty calories in alcoholic beverages add up. If you want to enjoy your favorite cocktail occasionally throughout the season without overdoing it, add some mineral water or seltzer to it to keep it light.

 

While food and drinks are certainly a great part of the festivities, holiday celebrations are not just about eating. Focus on the joyous, giving spirit of the season and enjoy spending time with your family, friends and colleagues.