The absolute number one key to a healthy weight is healthy sleep.
If you are not getting high-quality sleep every night, it is costing you your health. Americans in general do not prioritize sleep. You can’t make up for it on vacation, on the weekends, or when the stars and moon align.
We must have 7-9 hours of quality sleep every single night.
I know that is not the answer that the diet industry has sold you on, but it is the truth.
You will not lose the stubborn weight you desire to lose, if you are not getting adequate sleep. Growth hormone is secreted at night and it is the hormone that is going to help your body heal and is key in terms of developing lean muscle mass. This secretion isn’t going to happen unless you get into a deep sleep. If you are waking up between 2-4am you aren’t getting into the deep sleep you need to lose weight. Waking up in this pattern is indicative of poor blood sugar and hormone dysregulation.
I ask all my clients to abide by the philosophy of GOOD, BETTER, BEST. I am outlining healthy sleep DO’s and DON’Ts below. If you can follow every tip that’s the best, but if you can only start implementing a few, that is good too.
Get Sleep Now
Cold/dark room – your bedroom needs to be cool at night and as dark as you can make it. Unplug electronics to ensure that you don’t have glowing blue lights. Purchase black-out curtains if need be. I also really like sleeping with a silk sleep mask. You can see my favorite one here.
Get off of electronics – you need to not “see” any blue light that is omitted from electronics at least 90mins before bed. If this cannot be avoided, then you need to be wearing blue-light blocking glasses. I like a high-quality product that also reduces eye strain. I recommend these ones here, they might not be the sexiest eye wear around, but you will thank me, when you start sleeping better.
Magnesium – do take magnesium as a supplement. Our bodies use up this nutrient quickly as a way to combat stress. Having adequate magnesium levels helps your body rest in a restorative state. I like Magnesi-Om from MoonJuice. Taking this form of magnesium will break your fast. I also recommend a pure magnesium oil spray from Ancient Minerals. This transdermal spray also helps replenish your magnesium stores and won’t break your fast.
Physical Activity – our bodies were designed to move. When we break a sweat and are active during our awake hours, it helps our brains understand that. It’s essential to align our body with our circadian rhythm. Going for a walk, washing the car, playing with pets or kids during daylight hours also helps to establish this.
Meditation – you need to calm your brain down for better sleep. If you are a part of the “my-mind-is-constantly-racing-when-I-should-be-sleeping” club, you need to give meditation an honest try. Meditation by defininitin is a mental exercise of emptying the mind and focusing on breath. Try just breathing… and see what comes to you. No laundry list of “to do’s” just pure breath. If you need a guided meditation you can try that too. Headspace has a bunch of great ones and an app.
Eat enough – if you are practicing intermittent fasting and OMAD (one meal a day) you might not be consuming enough calories. If you are truly hungry this is going to disrupt your sleep. You want stable blood-sugar throughout the night. Your food choices should focus on protein and healthy fats. Add in carbohydrates from starchy vegetables and low-glycemic fruits.
Carve out a ritual – a nightly ritual is one of my favorite ways to trick the brain into sleep. Trigger the circadian rhythm with a routine. Combine the recommended steps above and repeat them in the same pattern as you set the stage for sleep each night. Try to go to bed around the same time every day so your body gets used to this routine and automatically starts winding down for sleep.
Don’t drink alcohol – using a glass of wine to fall asleep is not ideal. Alcohol is a greater contributor to interrupted sleep than almost anything else. If you do drink alcohol in the evening, follow it up with equal amounts of water and do follow your regular night time routine.
Don’t depend on melatonin – yes, melatonin is a natural sleep aid. No, it should not be the ONLY way to get you to sleep. Please try the recommendations listed above in conjunction with melatonin.
Don’t push the 4:30am workout – yes, I love a good workout. No, I don’t think you are winning a gold star for doing so day after day, especially after limited sleep. You will see greater results from prioritizing rest, recovery and sleep, than you will from pushing your body to its limits.
Don’t do the late night snacks – ideally, you should finish eating three hours before bedtime. You have cortisol receptors in the abdomen and they shouldn’t be triggered if you are trying to unwind for the night. Plan your meals accordingly so that your last meal has plenty of time to digest before bedtime.
Don’t fall asleep to the t.v. – see above for electronic consumption suggestions. But this bad habit should be broken. Try going to sleep by reading a book, the old-fashioned kind with paper pages and writing on it. The t.v. is not quieting your mind, it is only exciting it.
What do you think about these do’s and don’ts … are you guilty of any sleep pitfalls? Let us know how you plan to increase the quality of your sleep in the comments below.