If you snooze, you will lose weight!
This list is an extension of the 10 sleep suggestions article that I wrote a few years ago. Sleep is essential for your health and successful weight loss. The truth is that you can sleep your way to a smaller waistline. If you do not get enough sleep, your metabolism will slow, and your body will degrade.
It is not easy to get enough sleep in the age of our digital life. We have built so many tasks into our daily lifestyle that we have overstressed our minds into a constant state of readiness. Weight loss isn’t the only benefit of getting a good night of sleep. A full night of sleep or 7-8 hours can help to improve memory, reduce inflammation, slow aging, reduce stress, improve immunity, and can even lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Things that ruin your sleep:
- Using your phone, computer, or tablet in bed. Your electronic gadgets use blue light to illuminate the screen, and this part of the spectrum specifically reduces your body’s production of melatonin. Melatonin is a crucial hormone that helps you fall asleep. Consider signing off your digital habit an hour or so before bedtime.
- Eating too close to bedtime. Sure, some foods might be good at inducing sleep, but most do not. I recommend avoiding food and drink at least 2 hours before bedtime. Anything closer will increase your odds of reflux at night and may reduce your melatonin levels.
Watching television in bed. A TV in your bedroom also gives off the same blue light that reduces melatonin. It also activates your mind. Cut off the TV 1 hour before bedtime or even better remove it from the bedroom. The bed should be only for things that start with the letter S – Sex and Sleep.
- Too much alcohol. Alcohol reduces the quality and duration of sleep. It directly inhibits melatonin and thus reduces the ability to fall and stay asleep. Alcohol also reduces sleep duration and, indirectly, quality. Alcohol increases urination and gastric reflux both of which reduce the quality and duration of sleep. Reduce your alcohol and improve your sleep.
- Too little sunlight. Sunlight in the morning shuts off the melatonin production. This process is essential for the maintenance of your circadian rhythm which establishes a sleep-wake schedule. Exposure to light makes you feel alert, and lack of light encourages you to fall asleep more easily at night.
- Exercising during the wrong time of day. You must individualize your exercise program. Each of us is different. Some will be energized by exercise and others will be calmed by it. You need to exercise at your best time. If you are energized by exercise, night exercise would be counterproductive to good sleep, but calming could be ideal for good sleep if you are anxious by nature.
- Altering your sleep schedule. I refer to this as disorganized sleeping habits. You need to keeping a good sleep schedule will increase the quality of your sleep and may increase the duration of your sleep. Avoid sleeping in on weekends and maintain a good circadian rhythm.
- Night lights reduce the quality of sleep. Just like I said before, any type of light reduces sleep quality and duration. Turn your clock facedown and remove all incidental lights from the room. I also use blackout drapes. Dark is what you need for good sleep. This concept includes cell phone chargers.
- Caffeine is the enemy of good sleep. Tea and coffee both induce alertness and urination which is a problem if you are trying to sleep. Caffeine keeps you up, and most types of tea and coffee contain caffeine. Avoid caffeine afternoon if you have insomnia.
- Avoid reading in bed. Almost all physicians, including sleep physicians, will recommend that you avoid reading in bed. You should restrict light exposure for an hour before bed. It is impossible to read in the dark so just say no.
- Long naps: Short naps during the day are ok and in fact, they may help productivity, but long naps can reduce your ability to fall asleep during the night. It is important to maintain a schedule (see step 7).
- Kids and pets: No, I am not advocating you get rid of them, but I am saying they should not sleep in bed with you. Having them in bed with you can and usually will disrupt your sleep.
- Take time to unwind: You cannot slow your car down from 100 mph to stop in 2 seconds, so why do you expect your brain to do the same when it is time to sleep. Create an environment that cues our body that it is time to sleep. Use a period of calming tasks such as reading, listening to calming music, taking deep breaths, taking a warm shower (not hot – see 15), meditation, or practicing some yoga. These actions will allow you to turn off the worries and stress and ramp down from the day.
- Too much noise: Noise can trigger out fight and flight system and energize our bodies. People who have developed the habit of leaving a TV or radio on during sleep tend to have a lower quality and duration of sleep.
- Turning up the heat: Part of your body’s process of falling asleep is to decrease your body temperature. This physiologic process is part of the ramp down to cause relaxation. I recommend a bedroom temperature in the mid-60s. If you get cold, use a blanket.
The bottom line: Good sleep will help with weight loss and your health, so maximize your chances at good sleep.