Hello sleepy head
In your opinion, what’s the best way to lose weight?
Healthy eating? Weights? Cardio?
If your answer includes any of the above, you’re spot on. But there’s one more …
Imagine that, you don’t have to lift a finger to burn fat. Pretty cool huh?
I bet your confused and a little sceptical. So let me explaineth how it works, and how you really can lose weight while you Zzzzzz.
First I will walk you through why sleep is so integral to our health. Then we get to the juicy stuff – how you can improve your sleep and so maximise it for weight loss. I truly hope this blog inspires and empowers you to make sleep a priority.
So let’s jump straight in …
Sleep impacts every part of our life, but sadly gets so overlooked and brushed to the side. In today’s fast paced world, achieving a blissful night’s kip is hard to achieve.
But with a few simple tweaks you can take your snooze time to a whole new level and feel fabulous. On top of this quality sleep can increase your metabolic rate and fat oxidation. And the best bit is you don’t have to move a single muscle!
What happens whilst we sleep?
Many major restorative functions like tissue and cell repair, muscle growth, protein synthesis, and hormone production take place while we sleep.
But one of the most important restorative functions of sleep is to do with a neurotransmitter called adenosine. During the day our neurons fire and give us energy, this process produces adenosine which builds up during the day. This leads to a decrease in dopamine which is a neurotransmitter that keeps us alert and focused. So as adenosine goes up, dopamine comes down, resulting in that drowsy feeling you get at night. Then while we sleep, we gradually clear the adenosine from our bodies to start afresh in the morning feeling perky and awake. To summarise, the more sleep you get, the lower the level of adenosine, and the more alert you’ll feel the next day.
How much sleep do you need and when?
There are some factors that determine the amount of sleep you need such as lifestyle, gender, age and your health. It differs for everyone but as a general guideline, we need somewhere between 7-9 hours sleep per night. You have to gauge how you feel after a night’s sleep to determine your specific number of hours.
As for the best window for restorative sleep, it tends to be between the hrs of 11 pm and 7 am when the circadian rhythm is at it’s lowest point. Tune into your own personal circadian rhythm and go to bed when you feel sleepy. That way you’ll hit deep sleep.
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
If you’re not getting enough sleep it will effect many areas of your life. In relation to your health, a sleep deficit can increase your appetite. If you think about it, because you’ve less sleep you’ll have less energy to do things. So your body deals with this by stimulating your appetite, to get you to eat more to provide calories to fuel your daily activities. All this can result in weight gain which can, of course, lead to other health related complications.
So, how you can improve your sleep and maximise it for weight loss?
Keep reading for 14 practical tips on how you can improve your sleep and so prime your body for weight loss.
Some are pretty obvious, but I always feel it’s important to remind ourselves on core principals. I think all of us are guilty, myself included, of knowing something but not applying it.
Let’s get started.
1. Technology Off
Computers, TV, mobiles, iPads, and games all off at least an hour before you hit the sack. Try and do something that unwinds and relaxes you such as read a book. You want to get yourself into that sleepy mode where you produce the bedtime hormone melatonin which induces and regulates sleep and wake cycles.
2. Pre-Bedtime Snacks
Try having tryptophan rich foods before bedtime. This will encourage your body to convert the amino acid tryptophan to serotonin and then ultimately to melatonin.
Foods rich in tryptophan include seeds & nuts, eggs, and lean proteins such as chicken and turkey.
Cherries apparently contain natural melatonin so you could give that a try too.
If you struggle with sleep, you may want to consider taking a high quality Magnesium supplement.
Try and keep your bedroom as dark as possible. If this is difficult, try an eye mask. Darkness also helps the production of melatonin. An hour before you get into bed have all the house lights dimmed. I’m also a candle fanatic and love salt lamps. I highly recommend them to create that zen like ambience.
5. Bed Early
I’m so guilty of not doing this!
Sleep has a direct correlation on your metabolism and, therefore, your ability to lose and keep off the pounds. Let me explain why this is …
If you get to bed earlier, you will have more rapid eye movement (REM). Without going into mega detail, REM is a stage of the sleep cycle where your brain is highly active and so burns more calories. The more REM you have, the more calories you burn and the more alive/energised you will feel the next day.
Also, sleep deprivation wreaks havoc with your hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin and guess what? You’re more likely to over eat. Pretty annoying huh?! Cortisol levels also increase, which means increased stress and possible weight gain.
So I’m going to re-repeat do NOT overlook the importance of sleep not just for weight loss but for your general health too. I’m not saying to go to bed hours earlier. That’s not practical, but even 30 mins earlier each day will help. It all adds up.
Meditation is well proven to help calm the mind, and it also helps the production of melatonin. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to do 30 mins or an hour a day. 10 mins of solid meditation will work wonders. Remember, it’s about progression not perfection my friend.
There are some great meditation apps and soothing music on iTunes so get downloading. A few people I’d recommend you look at are Abraham Hicks, Eckhart Tolle and Gabby Bernstein.
7. Limit/Zero Caffeine
I think all of us know we should limit caffeine especially pre-bedtime. The stimulant effect of caffeine makes it hard to fall asleep and so limits the amount of restful sleep you have. If you need a warm drink don’t forget chamomile tea is very calming.
8. Limit/Zero Alcohol
Like caffeine, all of us know deep down this isn’t good before bed. One of the things that’s confusing about booze is it’s very relaxing at the time, but here’s the clincher … when alcohol is broken down, acetaldehyde is produced. It acts as a stimulant and wakes us up. So I’m afraid it’s a no no. Meh.
Now because I love and care about you peeps, you are not going to hear me utter the words reduce or limit because I really want you to cut this s**t out. It’s a cocktail of chemicals. Also, nicotine is similar to alcohol/caffeine in that it’s a stimulant and not good for our sleep. It also decreases our slow wave sleep, which means less restorative sleep.
10. Quality Bedding
Invest in a good quality mattress. Believe me, it’s worth the spend and your back and sleep will thank you for it. I also like extra soft fluffy sheets like flannelettes from John Lewis.
Splash out on an excellent pillow as well. The type of pillow is all down to personal preference, and you may have to try a few before you decide what works best for you.
11. Room Temperature
The general guideline is not too hot or too cold.
Boy do I love my pre-bedtime baths. Utter bliss for me. Run yourself a nice hot tub with some of your favourite smelly oils 20 mins before bed.
13. Aromatherapy Oils
The most well known relaxing aromatherapy oil is lavender but don’t forget to try Ylang Ylang, Bergamot, Chamomile, Sandalwood, Marjoram and Cedarwood. See what resonates for you the most.
You can pour a few drops in your bath, spray a little on your pillow, add a few drops to a tissue and hold close, or apply a scented lotion.
I’ve used these techniques many a time when feeling low, a little stressed and agitated. Trust me, it works.
You know I’m a huge advocator of exercise but not right before bedtime especially if it’s an intense session. The sort of exercise that’s ok late on is restorative yoga but that’s about it.
Now I’d like to hear from you.
Which one of these sleep hygiene strategies are you going to give a go? Have you any tips for improving sleep you’d like to share? How do you prompt your body to know it’s time to wind down?
Please let me know in the comments sections below.
Love Alexandra x