Sleep has to be one of the most under managed parts of our overall health so in this blog I want to give you 5 clear ways that you can improve your sleep duration and sleep quality. For some reason a lot of people do not place enough importance on their sleep management.
Sleep plays a pivotal role in managing health in so many ways. This includes your ability to manage your energy, your stress, your appetite, your recovery, your ability to grow muscle and of course simply to rest from our hectic lives. Yet most people still don’t manage this magical and important part of our life very well. In this blog I want to give you 5 actionable points that you can take away and implement into your own sleep routine to improve your all round health markers and possibly even be in a better position to aim for your weight loss (if that is your goal.
Can Sleep Impact Weight Loss?
You may be wondering why and how sleep can impact weight loss, so before we get into the 5 takeaway points I shall explain this for you. When we are sleep deprived it has been proved that this can have an effect on the hunger hormones which affects our ability to control what we eat. Ghrelin is the hormone of which makes us feel hungry or want to eat and leptin is the hormone that tells us we are full or suppresses our appetite.
It has been scientifically proven that when we are sleep deprived our ghrelin levels rise and our leptin levels drop which of course causes… Hunger.
Therefore, if we continually find ourselves having late nights there is a good chance we will want to over-consume calories the following day. If this happens consistently then expect to see some weight gain.
The other impacts of not sleeping are less scientific but more based around how likely you are to want to exercise or achieve your step count when you are a little tired, which will impact the amount of calories you burn each day. The lack of sleep then becomes a double edged sword of craving more food and less exercise. Hopefully you can now see that your sleep is pretty damn important.
There are other things to consider too like poorer cognitive function resulting in poorer decision making, higher cortisol and stress levels which of course isn’t the most ideal scenario at any time, not to mention when you want to lose weight.
So how much sleep should you get?
There are so many differing opinions on this but if you Google it you will hear most say around 8 hours. My opinion is that we should aim to get close to this for sure but I think that the most important thing with our sleep is consistency in routine and in our environment and that is exactly what these tips are all based off and I aim to stick to all of these myself.
Set a regular bedtime and wake-up time
As mentioned above I believe that a lack of consistency is one of the biggest reasons why people struggle. I often hear from clients that they struggle to get up some mornings for the gym but this in my opinion is because they only do it a couple of times of week, the rest of the time they are waking up at a different time. Our bodies are programmed by something known as circadian rhythm which is basically our body clock. Many years ago, there weren’t any clocks or watches, we used the sun to judge the time and relied heavily on circadian rhythm. Whereas these days there are so many distractions including artificial lights, apps, phones, TVs, to name a few.
The best example of explaining circadian rhythm is jetlag, we get tired because our body is completely out of sync with what we are used to so we feel tired and in some cases exhausted. This can happen however in your normal day, you don’t need to fly a few thousand miles to experience this. When you shift your bedtime and wake-up time after a heavy night at the weekend or maybe you just stayed up later because well, you could, you are essentially asking your body to wake-up in a different time zone, hence why you feel shattered. You have thrown your body off its normal rhythm. You are essentially jet-lagged.
So to cut to the chase I highly recommend keeping as much consistency as possible with this. If you struggle then a good idea would be to set a reminder/alarm to tell you to go to bed or at least to start to wind down. Creating triggers like this can help in the initial phase of building the new habit. Also recognising why you are doing this, the benefits you will get out of it will make it much easier to do.
Reduce light exposure 30-60 minutes before you sleep
Many people believe that blue light is a big hindrance to your sleep and it has been proven that it is. Therefore turning your phone off before sleeping or even your TV can have positive effects on your ability to switch off and get some good quality sleep. However as well as blue light in reality you need to reduce any form of light before sleep. Ideally you would slowly reduce your exposure to light in the hours before bedtime because if we refer back to the times many years ago we talked about earlier, when there was no artificial light, the sun goes down as does exposure to light which encourages us to wind down and sleep.
Back to the hormones now moving onto the ones that are responsible for sleep. We have two again, melatonin and cortisol. Melatonin is the hormone that encourages us to sleep and relax, in order for this to be present and most optimal we require little to no light exposure and a relaxed environment suitable for restful sleep. Scrolling through Instagram isn’t optimal for melatonin levels by the way… Cortisol is the hormone that helps us wake up, it is the stress response hormone. It is very important to note that exposure to light and distractions encourages the release of this hormone which is why it’s ideal to reduce all of that before bed. We require cortisol to wake us up, not send us to sleep therefore we want to minimise cortisol levels before bed.
In an ideal world we then wake up to some light exposure which is why you can now get digital alarm clocks that gradually increase the brightness of a light to help trigger this process. This will allow you to wake up not only more naturally but also will help you feel a little fresher and more awake too.
To summarise, we want to keep light and stress exposure (cortisol) to a minimum at bedtime which allows us to secrete melatonin to trigger restful sleep.
Create a relaxing environment to sleep in
Personally I like to keep items in my bedroom absolutely minimal. I keep my clothes in a wardrobe in a separate room and just have my bed, bedside cabinets, a chest for bed sheets etc and that’s about it. I recommend removing any unnecessary clutter, keeping it very clean and tidy and regularly changing your bed sheets. It all sounds really simple but if you refer back to the fact we need to reduce any levels of distractions and stress then this is the perfect way to do it.
I think being a bit of a minimalist in terms of furniture and storage in your bedroom (where possible) is definitely the way forward. Another big one would be to make sure you make your bed as the first thing you do in the morning, not only does it make it more inviting to get back into later that evening. It also gives you the first win of the day, you start the day with a box ticked, a success. Even though it sounds small, it starts the day with some real positivity and productivity that can lend well into the rest of your day.
Wake-up on the first alarm
This is a huge one that I encourage all of my clients to try to do. This is another way to start the day with a big win and some positivity. It means you are ready to ‘attack the day’. If you are the kind of person who likes to hit the snooze it’s probably because you don’t like getting up right? Of course it is. Think about this though, every time you press snooze and go back to sleep, you have to wake-up all over again. You are literally making yourself go through that whole negative process again which I simply think you should avoid should you want a positive start to the day. Again it also shows your willingness to take the day on.
You also risk falling back into a different sleep cycle which if you awake within a deeper sleep can make you feel incredibly tired and often more so than before.
Find at least 20 minutes in the morning for you
This is another big point that I encourage my clients to do. So many people fall out of bed, into the shower, into their work clothes, to the office, or their desk and commence work having had zero time to themselves, dreading the day ahead and not really full awake or focussed. It’s no wonder they feel lethargic, stressed and not motivated for the day ahead.
I highly recommend that you find some time for you. A minimum here would be 20 minutes and these activities could be literally anything that you enjoy doing just for you. It could be things like reading, exercising, stretching, yoga, video games, journaling, writing, drawing, you name it, you can do it.
Imagine having that time for you before going in to the hustle and bustle of your day, how much more positive are you going to feel now that you have woken on your first alarm, made your bed, done something you enjoy, all before you sit down at your desk or in the car. This can have ground-breaking effects on the trajectory of the rest of your day.
I believe with all of these things you are so much more likely to make positive decisions for your goals, feel more energised, more positive and therefore generally feel happier. It will also impact loved ones around you too, you will be a better person for them.
Lastly, sleep deprivation has been known to impact the levels of testosterone in the body which is a hormone responsible in men for regulating libido, bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass, strength, the production of red blood cells and sperm – it’s a pretty big deal. In females a lack of sleep can lead to a drop in progesterone which is the calming hormone which would normally reduce anxiety and soothe the central nervous system. So it kind of makes sense to make sleep a big deal right?
I hope this blog has highlighted how important it is to manage your sleep effectively and place some focus and attention on it. Those late nights will take their toll in the long-term on your health and in the short-term on your weight management.
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