Sleep may be the most underrated weight loss aid and overall health booster out there. Do yourself a favour and ditch the eye brightening concealer, venti Starbucks and (my personal fav), the masochistic compulsion to brag about “getting up at 4:30 am” for a workout. Here’s a too often overlooked health tactic: sleep more and sleep better.
Not convinced? Here are some more reasons to make sleep a priority:
Metabolism: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite. You WILL eat more crap on the days you get less than 7 hours.
Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
Mood: Sleep loss often results in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness.
Cardiovascular health: Sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s cells. Getting enough sleep may also help fight cancer.
Side note: It’s not always easy to get enough shut eye, especially for those of us with young kids. All I can say is hang in there, and read this book on sleep training. Apparently Gina Ford, author of “The Contented Baby” is THE baby whisperer and can teach you “freeekin magic” as one of my mommy friends attested.
So, cranky babies aside, here are some tips on how to get high-quality rest. Spoiler alert: they all require discipline. Well-rested people prioritize sleep the same way as diet and exercise. You can’t be answering emails, watching Game of Thrones or having “one more round” with friends at 11 pm and expect to hit your 6 am Bootcamp class in full form.
No Electronics in the Bedroom: Artificial light exposure between dusk and bedtime at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin which shifts circadian rhythms — making it more difficult to fall asleep. So turn off those screens at least an hour before bed and DON’T turn your bedroom into an office.
Learn to Nap: Done correctly, a 30 minute snooze between 1 and 4 pm can optimize alertness, productivity and creativity, and reduce stress. If you weren’t able to achieve your optimal number of hours the night before, or if you’re just dragging, a short nap can be exactly what your body needs to reboot. Don’t nap much after 4 pm however, as that can leave you tossing and turning at bedtime.
Prepare to sleep: Just like warming up before a workout, preparing to sleep can be immensely helpful to getting good rest. About an hour or so before bed, prepare your body to sleep by powering down electronics (they are clearly sleep enemies!) and downshift your brain by reading a book or taking a bath. Eventually, a regular nighttime routine can automatically send signals to the body that it’s time for zzzz.
Avoid certain foods at night: We all know not to drink coffee late in the day, however, it would be wise to also avoid chocolate, spicy foods and large meals late in the evening. Eating a big meal late at night can kickstart your metabolism in overdrive, and as your metabolism wakes up, so do you. In addition, researchers have linked alcohol to disrupted sleep cycles. So, in the name of looking and feeling fab in the morning, skip the nightcap.
Cheers to your health, happiness and sanity!