You put another notch on your belt- not just for staying up late (again), but also because your waistline is expanding to new horizons. Get better sleep today by following these tips, and get thin, too!
“What time is it?”, I grumbled as the gargantuan yawn split my face. It was yet another night of waking up with my nursing infant. My husband gleefully snored to glory next to me, while I reluctantly dragged my exhausted and overworked post-baby body out of my warm and cozy bed.
“Gotta feed the baby” was the mantra running through my brain, which is the most logical thought I could come up with. More of a prayer than a mantra, to be honest.
Does that sound like you? You are exhausted, overworked, and can barely patch together more than 3 hours of shut-eye at a time. You wake up tired, don’t remember the last time you slept past 6 am, and used to party till 3 am as a college kid.
You also have an extra 20-30 pounds hanging around your midsection that never used to be there. Read on to ease your tired eyes with specific ways to get better sleep AND lose weight. Yes, a resolution that everyone would be HAPPY to maintain throughout the year.
Why is Sleep so Important?
Said no one EVER. After all, most of it crave sleep like we crave a double-stuffed Oreo, yet it feels as far away from our daily life as a trip to the moon.
OK, so on some level, we yearn for the relief of a good night’s sleep. As a health coach, it is my sworn duty to point out the health benefits of getting more of it. To read more details on any of these points, visit the article on Huffington Post.
- Improves memory
- Live longer
- Reduces inflammation
- Evokes creativity
- Perform better (athletically)
- Improve learning
- Sharpen attention
- Lose Fat
- Banish stress
- Survive the commute
- Diminish depression
Let’s talk more specifically on the ones tied to health benefits.
Live longer. Over 16 years ago, I made the choice to improve my eating and increase my exercise. Outwardly, I lost 100 pounds. Inwardly, my focus was on living a “long and healthy life”. It looks like I might have been on the right track. According to a meta-analysis by Cappuccio, Cooper, D’Elia, Strazzullo, and Miller, short duration of sleep was associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. (A meta-analysis is a review of various studies on the same topic in a peer-reviewed medical journal).
Considering that most of us have a relative or family member who has suffered or passed from either of those two factors, it might be a good idea to go to bed a bit earlier than usual tonight.
Reduces inflammation. I am the first to admit that I am no expert on inflammation. However, I can’t completely ignore the research and studies that show that inflammation could be linked to cancer. My father passed from two different types of cancer. The same father who was determined to live until at least 100.
According to Authority Nutrition, poor sleep is known to activate inflammation and cell damage, as well as lead to relapse for folks who already struggle with inflammatory bowel diseases (like Crohn’s, IBS, etc).
I have shared the importance of muscle for weight loss, especially when your focus is on looking good in your clothes, and especially when you are a woman.
Bottom line: Muscle is good for you, and fat is not. More sleep=more muscle and less fat.
Banish Stress. Not all stress is bad for you. Yet, most of the clients I work privately with struggle with stress. And, they are not winning the battle. Unfortunately, that bleeds into poor habits, like eating too much junk food or emotional eating. I am not going to promise that you can completely get rid of stress, because it’s IMPOSSIBLE. However, sleeping more can load up your body with more tools to naturally ease your stressors when awake.
In an interesting side note (especially for you moms and dads), Millenials appear to be affected most by poor quality sleep. According to the American Psychological Association, Millennials are most likely to say they feel stressed by a lack of sleep as compared to their parents’ or grandparents’ generation.
This point hits hard for me, as I am raising a strong and independent teenage daughter who struggles with falling AND staying asleep. I can witness how this impacts her grades at school as well as her temper at home.
Diminish Depression. No wonder I spent the first two years of my daughter’s life as an apathetic zombie! WedMD indicates that one of the common signs of depression is insomnia or an inability to fall and stay asleep. Considering that I also live in the cold northern state of Minnesota, where sunlight is scarce during the winter months, it is no wonder that I wasn’t living to my full potential.
The biggest concern I have with depression and lack of sleep is medicines used to treat depression might interfere with your ability to sleep. Regardless of which one causes the other, medicine may not be the best way to treat these symbiotic friends.
Even if the list of health benefits of sleep weren’t a mile long, there are other more telling cosmetic benefits. You know, like fewer wrinkles, dark circles under your eyes, better skin, and being able to remember your partner’s name. Before they remind you.Not getting enough #sleep? Learn the #health benefits of a good night's sleep and get more ZZZs here... Click To Tweet
How do I Get Better Sleep?
OK, so you know the benefits of getting more sleep, but what can you DO about it? I’m guessing you aren’t able to quit your job, add more hours to your day, let your baby cry out their hunger, or avoid any appointments in the early morning hours.
Before I share 5 ways to get better sleep, here is a brief intro of my history with beauty sleep.
When I was dating my future husband, he worked a 3rd shift at a local hotel. We both worked during the daytime, but he also had to go work a second shift while I got some beauty sleep.
One night, at the witching hour of 3 am, BRRRINNNG! Desperately reaching for the phone, I tried to open my crusty eyes to look for caller ID.
“Hello?” came the nearly incoherent grunt.
“Hi, love” was the quiet response.
“What’s wrong??!!!” I nearly shout.
“Uh, nothing. I just wanted to tell you, I love you.”
(Phone sails across the room).
I must admit, 14 years later, that my poor husband is a hopeless romantic. That was worthy of any Hollywood chic flick. However, I chewed him up and spit him out when I fully woke up the next morning.
So, you see why sleep matters so much to me. Channel your own inner sleep goddess, and let's explore 5 ways to let her reign over your nighttime Click To Tweet
5 Ways to Get Better Sleep
- PUT DOWN THE PHONE!
Really, unless it’s a 3 am romantic interlude, there is NO EMERGENCY that requires your immediate attention all hours of the day. Try implementing screen-free time at least a half hour before bed. Instead, read a book, talk to your partner, or even initiate your own “romantic interlude”.
2. SEE RED
Research shows that using red-tinted lights in your bedroom helps your brain waves relax. Our body produces melatonin, a light sensitive hormone that regulates drowsiness, and red light tends to encourage your body to produce more of it. Dr. Hyman describes this in more detail here.
I mentioned that I have a teenage daughter who struggles with insomnia. Her occupational therapist suggested more red light in her room, and it seems to have helped her with her sleep. Buy yourself a red light bulb, and make sure to keep blue light (which keeps you awake) out of your room. At the very least, install the f.lux app on your device to reduce blue tints.
3. GET MOVING
After 4 months of this study as reported in New York Times, insomniacs who started exercising were sleeping up to 45 minutes longer at night. I don’t know about you, but the thought of sleeping 45 minutes longer is like winning the lottery!
There are many health benefits to exercise, not the least of which is sleeping better. As a bonus, if you incorporate this type of exercise, you can even burn more fat while you sleep.
4. BRAIN DUMP
One of the biggest challenges my clients have is too much clutter. Not in their physical space, but in their heads! I know that there are nights when I can’t fall asleep because I am dreaming up my next business move, or I am remembering what I forgot to accomplish that day.
Plus, being the devout multi-tasker I am, I can’t just leave things be. Many women report that they can’t turn their brains off.
Sure, you could improve your to-do list management or put reminders up, but then you might stress out that you can’t remember to add your reminders.
Instead, leave a journal by your bed, and write it ALL down. Every single niggling thought that is stressing you out. Every single reminder and thought and fear.
My daughter and I started burning the piece of paper that captured our negative thoughts. It was very cathartic. If you aren’t ready to burn those brain dumps, just leave them on the paper and (maybe) deal with them in the morning.
5. AXE THE ALCOHOL
At 5:00 on Friday night, do you know where your alcohol is? Well, it’s time to let that alcohol go! Alcohol is known to increase or cause sleep apnea, snoring, or disruptive sleeping.
Hey, we’re all adults here. Drinking an occasional glass of wine might have some limited health benefits, but not at the cost of your good night’s sleep. Drink responsibly, but make sure to drink a full glass of water every time you do drink. Get the full lowdown on liquid calories here.
Whoever decided that January is the best month for resolutions was clearly not getting enough sleep. Getting more sleep will help you eat better, have energy for exercise, and even start enjoying your mornings more.
Speaking of mornings, did you download my FREE Breakfast Blueprint yet? Take advantage of your new-rested self, and start your day the healthy way.