Hands up if you don’t get enough sleep?
My hand is firmly up in the air! I’m a terrible sleeper – I’m lucky if I get 5 hours a night, and no I’m not one of those people that feels great on 5 hrs – 5 hrs is most definitely NOT enough! lol! but… like many people sleep is something I struggle with. My mind races, I remember all those things I haven’t done, I start worrying about all the things I need to do, I’m running choreography in my head, I’m planning my day… I’m writing the next article… and as a result I either can’t sleep, or more usually I wake up multiple times in the night. Part of the problem is I also go to0 bed late – like others who work in the evenings, or have things to do, you get home late, you have dinner late.. and of course that means in bed late!
The problem with not getting enough sleep is that sleep is vital to your health and well being. I’m going to talk more about this another time but in brief, sleep is the time when your body repairs itself and recovers, it’s also the time when your brain processes information and memories. It also impacts on the production of hormones in your body. Research has shown that if you don’t get enough sleep your levels of grehlin increase. Grehlin is the hunger hormone – it makes you hungry. In addition not enough sleep leads to decreases in your levels of leptin (the hormone which tells your brain when you’re full) so you end up feeling hungrier and not feeling full. This equates to overeating. Lack of sleep also makes you tired (of course) and so you are more likely to reach for things like sugar and carbs to give you an energy boost throughout the day. So all in all lack of sleep can really derail your weight loss goals.
The recommended amount of sleep is 7 – 8 hours and here are a few tips to help you hit that.
#1 Sort out a schedule – yes I know this sounds like the sort of thing you’d do for a toddler but it really does help. Give yourself a bedtime and stick to it. It helps you get in to a good rhythm.
#2 If you’re a technology addict and sit on your phone or ipad all evening then stop that at least an hour before you want to go to sleep. Set an alarm on the device to remind you to turn it off and whatever you do don’t be tempted to use it in bed. The stimulation to your brain from these gadgets keeps you awake. There’s also research that the backlight on the screens makes you more wakeful too – as it mimics daylight (certain devices like kindles have special backlights which prevent this but keep it on it’s dimmest setting anyway).
#3 Draw the curtains – It’s important to keep the room as dark as you can. Our bodies produce melatonin (the sleep hormone) in response to darkness so draw the curtains, ensure any LED’s etc are covered or point away from you and if you can’t get the room dark consider an eye mask.
#4 Get some sunshine – get as much daylight as you can during the day. This helps to set your body’s circadian rhythm (internal clock) which means the contrast of the dark room at night will signal your body that it’s time to sleep. This is especially important if you’ve travelled to another time zone – get out in that midday daylight and reset your body clock. But even when you’re home or at work keep the room as bright as possible for as much of the day as possible – save the darkness for bedtime
#5 Set up a bedtime ritual. It can actually be anything you want it to be – it might be a bath or a warm shower, it may be 15 mins reading your book, it may be a cup of chamomile tea or perhaps listening to some relaxing music etc but start this process in the hour leading up to when you want to sleep. It primes your body and mind to rest and will become a habit which helps to signal to you that it’s time to get ready to sleep.
#6 Avoid alcohol – contrary to popular belief (and in spite of the fact that I feel like I’m gonna fall straight asleep after one glass of wine!) alcohol can be really disruptive on sleep. It may help you fall asleep initially but is linked to waking up often and waking up earlier than usual which is due to the body breaking down the alcohol once it’s in your system. So try not to use alcohol as your method of putting yourself to sleep.
#7 More coffee, less sleep – This is obvious; cut back on the caffeine. Caffeine has a half-life of up to 7 hours – that means if you have a large four-shot latte at 4 pm then half that caffeine is still in your system at 11 pm! Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands (which is why it’s a pick-me up) and also blocks the sleep neurotransmitters. So stop the coffee earlier on in the day if you can. Also avoid any other sorts of caffeinated drinks late at night – so no late night cuppa either!
#8 Quiet please – again, fairly obvious but something I think we often overlook. Keep your bedroom as quiet as you can. If you have pets or partners that are noisy (cats can really snore you know!) or you live in a noisy area which you can’t control then consider ear plugs or you can get “white noise” cd’s which produce a constant low sound which helps to muffle other random noises and can help you sleep.
#9 Keep the room cool – open the window during the day no matter what the weather, and let the room cool and air. Then when you come to bed you can close it if it’s cold. On warm evenings use a fan if you can to cool you down. A room temperature of around 18 C is considered the best to promote deep sleep.
#10 Avoid regular naps – no matter how tired you are, try not to nap regularly during the day. All this does is perpetuate the non-sleeping cycle as you learn to cope with the lack of sleep by having the nap. Of course the occasional power nap to get you through when you haven’t slept well is fine but just don’t make it part of your daily routine.
So there you go – I’m off to draw the curtains, read a book and kick my snoring cat off the bed 😉 Sleep well folks!
Please remember, I am not a medical Dr and even if I was the medical and/or nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this site.