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How Important Is Sleep?

Sleep is your body’s time to rest and recover. Without good quality sleep, everything in life can seem much harder and certainly, your training, performance, and ability to recover properly can be compromised. When you have an inadequate good quality sleep it is hard to think, concentrate and generally function on a day to day basis. In short, you are cheating yourself if you don’t get enough.

Despite the need for sleep, approximately 35 percent of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep each night, according to a February 2016 report by the CDC. But of the 65 percent supposedly getting enough sleep, it’s doubtful their sleep quality couldn’t also be improved for better health and weight management success.

This is because people who get enough, high-quality sleep have lower levels of ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates hunger and makes you crave junk food) and increased leptin (a hormone that regulates energy and keeps your appetite from spiking). That was the finding of research conducted at the University of Wisconsin, and any sleep medicine professional or educator will echo this fact, too.

Without enough zzz’s, your brain is more likely to act impulsively and choose high-calorie foods, which means your body becomes hard-wired to crave foods like pizza and doughnuts, while healthy foods like fruits and vegetables become less appealing. According to research out of the University of California, Berkeley, the part of the brain used for complex decision-making is impaired and the part that controls desire is amplified.

Lack of sleep may cause our bodies to secrete a molecule called 2-AG, which stokes hunger, according to research from the University of Chicago and the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Participants had higher levels of the molecule after getting 4½ hours of sleep than when allowed to sleep 8½ hours. These levels peaked in the afternoon when snack cravings are likely to kick in.

So How Do We Get More Sleep?

So if getting adequate sleep is important for weight loss how can we get better sleep? Here are a few tips you will find helpful.

Eat every 3-4 hours and exercise daily to restore that regular sleep-wake cycle. Our metabolism responds best to consistent, habitual routines.

A diet with regular consumption of complex carbohydrates like brown rice, millet, oats, brown rice, legumes, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, beans and mushroom, fruits like kiwi, muskmelon and oranges, protein food choices like paneer, eggs, yogurt, seafood and poultry, nuts and seeds like almond and flaxseed, helps improve overall sleep quality.

Exercise A Major Benefit To Sleep

Regular exercise, including cardio, weight training, stretching, and Pilates, helps induce sleep. For some, morning exercise might induce sleep better than late-evening exercise. Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle should start a simple exercise plan of daily walking, weight training at least twice a week and Pilates or yoga twice a week.

What You Should Avoid

Avoid excessive intake of alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants. These can prevent the mind from calming down.

Turn off the television and other bright lights an hour before bedtime to induce an increase in melatonin levels so that you fall asleep naturally and experience adequate amounts of both NREM and REM sleep.

Avoid heavy meals at night. The body has to keep the metabolic rate up to digest a heavy meal and this could interfere with the initiation of a sleep cycle.

I know from my own experience when I do not get great sleep I seem to binge on junk food the next day. When I get better sleep I make healthier food choices. I did not realize the connection. It seemed no matter how hard I tried to lose weight, the less sleep I got the more weight I put on. Now I know and so do you. Here is to a better nights sleep.

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