16 Oct How to Sleep Better and Why you Need More
Sleep deprivation has become common in today’s society; however, sleep is the most essential tool for recovery. Adequate sleep facilitates metabolic and hormonal balance thus aiding in fat loss efforts. A sleep deprived body decreases glucose, increases ghrelin, decreases leptin, increases evening cortisol concentrations, as well as increases inflammatory markers; altogether resulting in increased appetite and hunger, creating a vicious cycle of feeding hunger cues when instead the recovery needs to be addressed.
AKA – You’re hungrier and more stressed when you get less sleep. Fabulous. If your body just doesn’t seem to be responding to your workouts, if you are struggling with anxiety or uncontrollable hunger during the day, weight gain, or brain fog, it sounds like you may need more sleep. So… what exactly IS great sleep? It’s a question worth answering, since so many of us may have forgotten what it looks and feels like.
What is great sleep?
A great night’s sleep is one that allows your body to recover from the day before. It looks like falling asleep quickly, staying asleep through the night, and waking up rested and ready for the day. If you have a hard time falling asleep – you’re not recovering. If you have a hard time staying asleep throughout the night – you’re not recovering. If you wake up dragging – you haven’t recovered. Here’s a quick sleep check test for you:
Do you fall asleep in 5 minutes before 11pm?
Do you get uninterrupted sleep?
Do you wake up between 6 – 8 am ready to go?
How many questions did you answer yes? If it wasn’t many or all, then the good news is if you’re willing to make changes you can achieve better sleep. Consider the following:
Go to Bed Earlier
Duh. This one is a no-brainer, right? Great sleep means going to bed earlier. Why? Between the hours of 11pm – 1 am our adrenal glands recover, which aid in blood sugar regulation and our body’s ability to react to stressors. From 10 pm – 12 am the brains vesicles that store our neurotransmitters recover.
Wake Up Earlier
Wait, what? While it may seem counter-intuitive, waking up between 6 – 8 am is ideal because that is when your cortisol levels should be the highest. Very quickly, cortisol is not the enemy, but when mismanaged it can derail certain bodily functions. We want cortisol to be high in the morning and then taper off in the evening. When this cycle is reversed you’ll notice difficulty waking in the morning and trouble sleeping at night. When stress is chronically elevated deleterious health effects include headaches, anxiety, depression, trouble concentrating and with memory, difficulty sleeping, and weight gain.
Turn Work OFF Earlier in the Evenings
The ‘grind’ or ‘burning the midnight oil’ is not a matter of efficiency, in fact it is the exact opposite. When sleep is properly managed you’ll wake up with more energy and the most productive hours occur before noon. Working at night produces sloppy work, less efficiency, increased time in front of blue light / electronics which cascades into poor sleep quality for that night. When you have poor sleep or too little sleep you CANNOT regain those hours lost, however you can do better the next night and reset your biorhythm to optimal function.
Use Light to your Advantage
Spending time in bright light or natural light exposure throughout the day to improve daytime energy and will improve nighttime sleep duration and quality. In the same way, avoiding blue light from your computer, phone and television in the evening hours can help you get better sleep, as light tells your body not to produce melatonin, an important sleep chemical. If turning screens off at night isn’t possible, try investing in some blue light reflecting glasses.
Little Ways to Help Improve Your Sleep
Limit caffeine intake in the afternoon and evening.
Stick to a consistent sleep and wake schedule.
Supplement with Magnesium, Inositol, Taurine, or Melatonin.
Keep the thermostat around 68-70 degrees.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, however if fat loss and optimal health is your goal implementing these strategies will set you up for success.