Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Do you ever daydream about sleep? I do! So lame I know but I feel like people with kids totally get this. I freaking love sleep. You can’t explain how life-changing it is until it’s taken away from you (que crying baby).
I don’t mean to brag but I’m also really good at it. I could go down for a 10 minute nap at any time. Seriously, I’m so good at sleep I could do it with my eyes closed… ok that got lame sorry.
But what’s not lame is the studies on sleep and our health and as a nutrition coach this is something I often ask clients to monitor. We find - the better sleep - the better success with weight and performance goals.
Part of the problem when it comes to sleep is our society values success, hard work and “having it all.” Sometimes needing rest is viewed as a weakness. You know the saying, “you snooze you lose”? Well that saying sucks. People are working long hours, shift work and often have trouble detaching themselves from their smartphones. We often are quick to trade hours of sleep to attend events, get more work done, or even watch countless hours of Netflix.
But sleep is essential for our body to function properly. Sleep helps regulate our metabolism and brain function. When our body is deprived of sleep we can age faster and become less capable to deal with stress. We can also become more susceptible to chronic illnesses and neurodegenerative diseases.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, if cutting back on sleep is part of your regular routine you may be at an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, poor mental health and even early death. Many studies have found that less sleep results in more body fat, although it is unclear if poor sleep is a cause or result of excess body fat.
We do know that people tend to make less thoughtful food choices when they are tired. We sometimes confuse feeling tired, for feeling hungry (I’m totally guilty of this!) and we might be more inclined to reach for comfort food or something “quick” and processed. The sugar in many ultra processed foods gives our body that burst of energy it’s looking for, but the energy bump is typically followed by a crash.
Sleeping at least 7 hours a night consistently will give your body the energy it needs to recover and function properly. If you are training hard or your job is physically demanding you likely should hit a minimum of 8 hours a night.
If you struggle with getting enough sleep we recommend scheduling a nightly routine. Be consistent and start to unwind every night at the same time. Allow your body and mind time to relax before you finally lay down to sleep. Put the phones and electronics away and try to avoid watching tv in bed. Keep your sleeping environment cooler and dark... Blackout curtains are everything in my house!
Ditch caffeine at least 4-5 hours before bedtime (and if you know you are sensitive to caffeine you should try to avoid all afternoon java). Try not to drink too much fluid just before bed to avoid that late night bathroom trip. Eating a lighter supper can also have you more comfortable before hitting the hay.
If getting 7 hours of sleep at night is not realistic for you, consider naps.
Sleep is a key factor to weight loss success, athletic performance and overall health. It should not be overlooked or undervalued.