Sometimes when you're talking about general health and well-being we forget one of the most important tools our bodies have for self-healing. Sleep!
Life is hectic and crazy and often we deal with that by skimping on the sleep. Did you know though, that skimping on the sleep is one of the easiest ways to block your weight loss efforts?
I could get all scientific and talk about the studies done that show how people who got fewer than 7 hours of sleep a night ate an average of 500 extra calories during the day after (7 days of that equals 1 pound gained)... or throw around words like leptin (hormone that signals satiety) and ghrelin (hormone that stimulates the appetite) but I won't. Anymore.
The truth is that in my own experiences over the last 5 months, I've made sleep a priority. I can tell you that when I get less than 7-8 hours a night, I have a much harder time curbing my mindless eating. You know that the kind I'm talking about. Grabbing a handful of chocolate chips here, and a scoop of peanut butter there, when you're not even really hungry. The truth is, no matter how healthy and clean you're eating, when your goal is weight loss. calories in should always be less than calories out. So extra snacks, especially when you're not hungry can really derail your efforts.
So look, I know. Grey's Anatomy is on. You're out of milk and you need to run to the store. Your 10 year old has a project due tomorrow and she didn't tell you until today. Yeah, those days happen. I get it.
In general though, trying to make sure you get at least 8 hours a night is really going to pay off in the end.
Here are some things I do to make sure that I maximize the sleep I do get, especially if I know I'm not getting to bed as early as I'd like;
- Cover or remove all unnecessary lights in your room. I even tape a tiny piece of paper over my fire alarm (yes, we test and check it often to make sure it's not a safety hazard). I lay my cell phone face down so those random push notifications don't disturb me in the middle of the night. I close my curtains tight so the annoying street light doesn't makes it's way in. If you can't do that, and can stand to have it, try getting one of those little masks. I'd rather have the room as dark as possible than wear one of those, but to each his own.
-Exercise!! It sure does sound counter-productive but I get my best sleep on days when I make sure I get lots of movement in! By the way, if you exercise a lot then sleep is that much more important for you. It's when your muscle fibers do the most of their repair work.
-No clocks! No checking your cell when you get up to go to the bathroom. Looking at the clock will just trigger all sorts of "to do" lists in your mind. Starting with whatever you have to do first thing in the morning. It all starts with "oh no, only 4 hours left until I have to get up". Before you know it, it's an hour later and you're still laying there staring at the clock.
-When trying to fall asleep, relax your jaw and make sure your tongue is laying at the bottom of your mouth and not clenched at the roof of your mouth. Try it tonight, you'll see what I'm talking about. Make sure your breathing is slow and even, and try making sure your arms are relaxed. I know it sounds crazy, but try it. You'd be surprised how often you lay there with a clenched jaw and tensed arms. Like the stress of the day is trying to keep you awake.
-Try not to watch tv right before bed. It's tempting I know. I have a tv in my bedroom and I really wish I didn't. I'm not guilty of that so much as my hubby is. I like to have some quiet while I stretch out my bedtime routine. I find it helps to shut my mind down and prepare for sleep.
- Which brings me to routine. Brush teeth, wash face, moisturize, stretch, yoga, bath, tea, etc. Whatever you do at night before bed, trying making it a routine. We are not that different from babies. Remember when your little one was learning to sleep at night? Routine is huge! Our bodies will learn from these motions that bedtime is near! I'm not nearly as good at this as I should be. It's definitely something I need to get better about. Often though, I find myself going to bed a few minutes later than I should and so I rush through flossing and brushing and then I am still too awake when I finally lay down.
-Strive for consistency. Going to bed at the same time every night will sort of set your body clock. I know this isn't always possible though with shift work and parents who have lots going on and whatnot. I think in this case you can still be consistent, just do the best you can.
-I guzzle water. All day long. I swear I drink about 100 oz a day. I wouldn't have it any different. That all shuts off when I put the girls to bed though. I take the last of my supplements and medications around 8pm and that's it. That helps cut down on the times I need to get up to use the bathroom.
-White noise. Definitely makes those random noises less obvious. Especially the spouse snoring next to you.
- Take medications at the same time every day. I made the mistake of accidentally skipping a med last night. :( I spent the night having super vivid crazy dreams and this morning I felt like I hadn't slept at all (hence this post).
I think that about covers it. I'm sure I missed some great tips though. What do you do to make the best of the sleep you get?