I am not exaggerating when I say that sleep is the single biggest factor in your health.
You cannot exercise, meditate, or eat your way out of poor sleep.
Sleep is the foundation for all health.
Every nook and cranny in your body is adversely affected by poor sleep.
During sleep your brain is cleansed of toxins and waste, your body is working hard to heal and repair, and your memories and emotions are organized and transformed for better processing.
Hormones, which can either make or break weight loss, are also heavily dependent on sufficient sleep.
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
Whatever it is, the way you tell your story online can make all the difference.
First of all, we tend to favor simple carbs and overeat. (1) Insufficient sleep also causes dysregulation of your metabolism. (2)
And it disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which can also lead to weight gain. (3)
To add to that, when we are sleep deprived our brain is less capable of making the right eating choices, leading us to desire high-calorie foods. (4)
None of this is good if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight.
Chronic sleep deprivation (less than 7 hours a night) increases the risk for cardiovascular disease (5), type 2 diabetes and obesity (6) poor immune function(7), and it increases overall mortality (8).
It also increases the risk for dementia, as shown by the study referenced below.
Analysis of the data showed that people in their 50s and 60s getting six hours of sleep or less were at greater risk of developing dementia later. Compared to those getting normal sleep (defined as 7 hours), people getting less rest each night were 30% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.— NIH Research, April 27, 2021
Now, if that doesn’t convince you to get in bed on time, I don’t know what will!
But let’s say you WANT to sleep more but you struggle to fall or stay asleep.
This is such an important question so I have spent a lot of time thinking, researching, and experimenting with the various ways to improve sleep time and efficiency.
Below are the 6 biggest tips I have found to help with sleep.
- Consistency: Go to bed and wake up at the same times.
- Temperature: Keep the room cool, ideally 65-68 degrees F.
- Avoid eating large meals or heavy exercise at least 3 hours before bed.
- Stress Management: this is a biggie! Stress is probably the leading cause of sleep disruption. Doing some concentrated breathwork for about 10 minutes before bed can help. Here is a video describing one type of breathwork that I have found to be very powerful.
- Be bought in. In other words, as long as you think you don’t need more sleep or you are not convinced of the extreme importance of sleep, you probably won’t make the effort needed to improve it. I refer you to the above research on the detrimental effects of poor sleep. Sit with each one for a moment. When researchers say that insufficient sleep increases the risk of sudden death they are not just trying to scare you. This stuff is real! Get bought into the importance of sleep and make it your #1 health priority. Then you’ll be willing to do what it takes to get there.
- Sleep Aids: There are several natural sleep aids that can make a HUGE difference in your sleep quality. Please check with your doctor before starting any new supplements or sleep aids.
- Valerian root tea is very powerful for causing sleepiness and reducing night waking (but don’t overdo it, follow the instructions on the box).
- L-Theanine is an extract from green tea that promotes the body’s production of GABA, which is sleep-inducing. You can get L-Theanine as a supplement. It is safe and very effective. I recommend 500-1,000 mg but start with 200 mg before bed just to see how it affects you.
- CBD oil can be extremely beneficial for sleep. It is great for preventing night waking. Unfortunately, there are a lot of questionable products out there. I recommend Pure Bloom for excellent quality, organic CBD oil. I don’t get any kickbacks for recommending this product. I just love the stuff! I use it myself and it has dramatically reduced my night waking.
- Magnesium can be great if your body stores are low. It induces relaxation and for some people even sleepiness. I recommend trying out 100 mg before bed.
- Melatonin is probably the most widely known sleep aid. But its track record is spotty. If your body is producing sufficient melatonin, it most likely will not impact your sleep. Then again, if you are not producing enough, it will definitely help. But melatonin wouldn’t be the first sleep aid I would try.
If you do all of those things and it doesn’t help then I have a few more ideas that are less well-researched but still valid.
Start with increasing your physical activity. Add a daily morning walk and see if that helps (it has helped many of my clients).
Try reducing blue light exposure at night. Get Flux on your computer. It’s a plugin that changes the lighting on your computer or device to mimic the day’s natural light rhythm. It will even ask you for your time zone.
Add a relaxation routine before bed. Gentle stretching, aromatherapy, a hot bath or shower, prayer or meditation, journaling, and listening to relaxation music are just some of the things you can do to relax your nervous system and get you prepped for sleep.
By the way, you’ll want to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night. You may think you need less, but that is probably just an illusion.
Studies show that over time, people who are getting six hours of sleep, instead of seven or eight, begin to feel that they’ve adapted to that sleep deprivation — they’ve gotten used to it,” Gehrman says. “But if you look at how they actually do on tests of mental alertness and performance, they continue to go downhill. So there’s a point in sleep deprivation when we lose touch with how impaired we are.— WebMD (10)
If you are struggling to lose weight and your sleep is IN ANY WAY COMPROMISED (whether by choice or not), I strongly, strongly urge you to begin to explore some of the strategies listed above.
It could very well be that your weight loss struggles will be eased by getting better hormone balance, being more emotionally stable, having the brain-power to make better choices, operating with better blood sugar control, and just having more energy. All done with a good night’s sleep!
If you would like to chat with me about how the “Work with Your Weight Loss Programs” can help you fall in love with the weight loss journey, please click the link below to schedule a free strategy call.