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.

How to Avoid the New Year’s Slump to Reach Your Goals

reach goals

 

At this point in January, you may find that you’ve lost motivation and have gotten off track in sticking with the health resolutions you set for this year. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up over it. You are far from alone! According to U.S. News, 80 percent of goal-setters drop their New Year’s resolutions by February.

So how do you pick yourself back up and stop yourself from throwing in the towel completely? Below are five tips to get you back on track so you can feel good about accomplishing your goals come December.

1. Revisit your “why”

There will be plenty of days when you don’t feel like doing what it takes to get healthy. The couch may be calling you to stay cozy instead of lacing up your sneakers and getting outside for a walk in the cold. When this happens, you need to know your “why” — the true, deep reason you want to achieve your goal.

For example, are you looking to lose weight? While looking better and being able to wear certain clothes are certainly good benefits of losing weight, they may not be strong enough reasons for you to commit to healthy eating and exercise over the long term. Getting healthy so you can be around to enjoy your grandchildren or to have the energy to give back to a cause you truly care about are some deeper reasons that may pull you off the couch time and again.

In a nutshell, when you have a strong connection to the reason for your goal, you are much more likely to be successful in reaching it.

2. Be realistic

Make sure your goals are attainable and avoid an “all or nothing” mentality. For example, don’t resolve to NEVER eat ice cream or French fries again. Instead, avoid these foods most of the time but allow yourself to mindfully indulge (and enjoy doing so without guilt) from time to time.

3. Break down big goals into small steps

Set small, attainable goals to work on each week that will help you work toward your larger goals. For each goal, write down every possible action you can think of that you will need to take to reach that goal. Then put the first few actions, or steps, on your calendar. Once those are done, add the next few steps and so on.

4. Track your progress

Keep track of and celebrate each small success to help you stay motivated. If your end goal is to lose 25 pounds, focus on 5 pounds at a time. Each time you lose 5 pounds, acknowledge and celebrate this smaller step toward your larger goal. Some ideas to celebrate might be going to the movies with a friend or buying yourself some new fitness gear.

One great way to track your progress is by keeping a food and/or exercise journal. You’ll be able to look back in your journal to remind yourself of all your hard work and see how far you’ve come. This is a great tool to keep you moving forward whenever you feel you’re losing steam or getting frustrated.

5. Enlist help

Decide how you will deal with the temptation to skip your workout or grab a few cookies before dinner. Think about what works best for helping you to stay on track.

It may be as simple as reminding yourself of your “why” and thinking about how giving into temptation will derail you from the better future you want to create for yourself. If you need outside support and accountability, have a trusted friend or family member who you know you can call to help you when you’re facing temptation. Have a friend who is also working toward health resolutions? Propose that you’ll be each other’s accountability partners!

The key is to not let yourself get down when you occasionally get off track — life happens! Take it one day at a time and do the best you can each day. Remember, you still have 11 months to work toward your goals. Apply these tips and you’ll find yourself making great progress in no time.