ABCs of health letter S! This thing is flying by! Let’s talk about Sleep!
Sleep is one of those things that we tend to take for granted… if I had a penny for every time I hear that “sleeping is a waste of time” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”… I’d have a lot of money!
When it comes to health, sleep is just as important as exercise and nutrition. Sleep helps our bodies and minds recover, helps us manage weight, helps us stay mentally sharp. We should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
On the other hand… chronic bad sleep makes it harder to manage weight, to gain and maintain muscle mass, it disrupts hormones, it speeds up ageing, increases the risk of chronic illness, drains our iq… it’s not cute. Lack of sleep looks a lot like being drunk, actually. Stop to think about a time when you were exhausted… nothing seems to function properly, you feel funky, and you certainly don’t want to eat well. All the parents with small kids totally get me right now!
Fortunately, adequate sleep quickly reduces these risks.
It’s interesting to look at studies that have been done comparing the effects of sleep restriction on weight loss results. What is consistently found is that the sleep restricted and non sleep restricted groups both lose a similar amount of weight, but when you sleep less, you lose more lean mass, when you sleep more, you lose more fat mass. And the difference is significant… with proper sleep the fat mass loss is in the 80 percentage, while with sleep restriction the fat loss is in 50 percentage.
In practical terms, this means that you shouldn’t sacrifice sleep to get in that extra cardio session. When trying to lose fat or gain muscle mass especially, but also when maintaining weight, it’s crucial to give your body enough sleep to do it’s best work.
A few tips to improve, and then maintain adequate sleep.
1. Have a sleep routine.
The basic of this is to have a regular schedule, sleep and wake up at the same time every day. I know, I have kids too, it’s HARD to have a regular schedule, but we do what we prioritize, so to the best of your ability in the season you are in, be consistent. This means that your body will begin creating an internal rhythm.
Other aspects of your sleep routine can include specific habits, such as moderating alcohol and caffeine, eating and drinking well, meditating before bed, quitting electronics by a certain time before bed, reading, stretching, things like that.
2. Exercise regularly.
Exercise and sleep are a bit of a loop. If you sleep well, you exercise better, if you exercise you sleep better, so they help each other. When you prefer to exercise is totally up to you. If you are starting out, or if you are struggling to be consistent, I highly recommend you tie it to something you already do. This is habit association. Working out first thing after you wake up is a great way to create a habit because if you do it first, it’s done, and you have less chances of making excuses. But tack it on to anything… maybe you walk past a gym a few times a week while doing a specific errand, start working out. Maybe your kids still nap, so use one nap as workout time. Anything can be used as a habit creator. Many people get revved up with intense workouts at the end of the day, and usually prefer those earlier in the day, but that is not a rule. Your health. Your way. Consistency is what is important.
3. Try a bath or shower
Many people add a bath or shower to their evening routine to help relax and de-stress. Try it out and see how your body likes it.
4. Optimize your sleep environment
There are adjustments you can make to help your body settle down for the night. A few ways to do this are:
– Keep the room dark. Light (especially blue light) inhibits melatonin, which is the hormone our brain produces to signal our body to sleep.
– Sleep in a relaxing, clutter-free space.
– Keep your room cool
– Use white noise if it helps
5. And finally… improve your waking up routine. I know, this may sound ridiculous, but hear me out. How you start your day sets the tone for your entire day.
So, you’re waking up at the same time every day, but waking to a jarring alarm is not the most enjoyable way to wake up.
Wake up to light, this one is trickier to control, but there are solutions such as dawn-simulating alarm clocks that can help. Also, simply exposing yourself to more light as soon as you wake up helps.
Get moving right away. There is a reason why so many people like to work out first thing in the morning. But even before that, don’t hit snooze. When it’s time to get up, just get up. There is something about moving that speeds up the waking process. From there, have a simple waking routine… maybe you practice gratitude, stretch, use the bathroom, brush your teeth, shower, work out, get coffee… find things in your morning and do them consistently.
Build your habits to support how you sleep and how you wake up. Again, how you start your day sets the tone for the rest of the day, and your first hours? Those are golden.
One thing seems to be a consensus with productive and happy people: electronics are not their first morning habit. Social media is not their first human interaction. The news is not the first thing they absorb into their brain.
Choose what you will allow into your system when you wake up – mentally, emotionally and physically. That makes or breaks your day.
Keeping it simple,