Is there anything better in this world than waking up after a good night's sleep? You feel refreshed, energized, and ready to tackle whatever may come your way. We know these things and yet so many of us have great difficulty making enough time for sleep.
Whether you know it or not, sleep is a vital component to both your health and your fitness goals. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night can impact both your eating habits and your fat storage.
Sleep and eating
When you don't get enough sleep, you feel sluggish, groggy and, more often than not, a little cranky. But it isn't just your mood and energy levels that are effected by poor rest, your fat cells also take a beating. Researchers at the University of Chicago analyzed what happened to the metabolism after 4 nights of sleep deprivation -- which, let's face it, is a typical work week for many of us. They found that after just 4 days, the body's ability to use insulin was compromised. Actually, insulin sensitivity dropped by 30%. When your body is producing insulin at normal levels, your fat cells are able to remove lipids and fatty acids from your blood, preventing them from getting stored in your body. When you become more insulin resistant, the fat remains in your blood stream and circulates through the body, triggering the production of more insulin. This excess insulin causes fat storage all over the body and around your organs, in particular.
What's worse, lack of sleep makes a mess of your hunger hormones. Your hunger is primarily controlled by 2 hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin makes you feel full and satisfied while ghrelin stimulates your desire to eat. Lack of sleep throws these two out of balance. It decreases your production of leptin, which makes you feel as though you've got nothing in your stomach and increases your production of ghrelin which makes you feel ravenous! To complicate this even more, lack of sleep stimulates production of cortisol. This stress hormone, as you may know, is associated with fat storage, especially in the belly. Cortisol activates the reward centers in your brain that make you desire food. Couple this with your decrease in leptin and your increase in ghrelin and you've got a potential diet disaster.
And one more thing: lack of sleep impairs the abilities of your frontal lobe which plays a key role in your ability to make decisions. It makes it far more difficult for you to make the right choice when it comes to food options (help keep yourself on track with the BodyRock Meal Plan), making you more susceptible to those heavy, processed carbs you've been trying so hard to avoid.
Obviously, these are issues we'd all like to avoid. Don't tank your weight loss efforts by not getting enough rest! Here are a few things you can try to get a better sleep, starting tonight!
Focus on relaxing
Start about 6 p.m. Focus on chilling the heck out. When the sun begins to set, your brain starts to increase its production of human growth hormone. It is this hormone that helps your body build new muscle and repair cells. And one more "fun" little fact about cortisol, it reduces your production of growth hormone. Relaxing and reducing your stress levels will increase your available growth hormone while decreasing your cortisol levels.
Ditch your technology
You've probably heard this one before, and with good reason, turn off all your gadgets (phone, computer, television, tablet) at least an hour before you go to bed. The screens from these devices emit a short-wave length light that can impede your production of melatonin which is what helps your body adjust to and anticipate the natural light and darkness cycles during the day.
Get to bed early
Going to bed earlier at night will help you get that much closer to getting the right amount of sleep. Try to get into bed by 10 p.m. Growth hormone peaks at this time (and stays elevated until 2 a.m.) so take advantage of its repairing properties and SLEEP! If you find it too difficult to change your bedtime immediately, slowly bump it back until you get there. Go to bed 15-20 minutes earlier every night until you hit 10 p.m.
Get up earlier
When the sun rises, your rise and shine hormones kick into gear. And if you've managed to grab 8 hours of shut eye, your body's repairs will be completed. 6 a.m. is the ideal time to rise. We know, it's early, but if you get to bed at 10 p.m., you'll be shocked at how easy it all becomes.
Watch what you eat
Don't got to bed starving but don't stuff yourself either. Being hungry or overly full can make you feel uncomfortable, preventing you from drifting off to dreamland. Try to limit your fluid consumption before bed as well. Getting up in the night to pee is not doing you any favors. Take a pass on nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants and can take hours to wear off. Alcohol makes your body work extra hard to process it and taxes vital organs like the liver. This extra effort will keep you from sleeping soundly.
Stick to a schedule
Go to bed and wake up around the same time every single day. This goes for weekends, holidays and vacation days. Sticking to the schedule will help your body clock and train you to wind down and wake up more easily and at the right times. BUT, if you get into bed and find you can't fall asleep, don't toss and turn. Get up and do something relaxing and when you feel tired, go back to bed. Stressing out about falling asleep will only make it more difficult to do so.
Do you have a solid sleep schedule? How do you get a good sleep?
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