High-Quality Sleep and Your Diet go Hand-in-Hand
The choice to eat healthily is one you have to make day after day. Some days are easier than others but if you’re running low on sleep, your own body could be working against you. Sleep plays a regulatory role in your appetite and metabolism. Without it, your body changes the way it functions. To make the kind of choices that support good long-term health, sleep needs to be a priority.
Learn to Recognize Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation takes over as soon as you get less than seven hours of sleep. Everyone has experienced the fatigue, forgetfulness, and poor decision-making that come when you’re trying to run on three or four hours of sleep. But when it comes to appetite, even getting six hours of sleep can affect your hunger and food cravings.
It’s also possible that you might not even be aware you’re experiencing sleep deprivation. Excessive hunger and weight gain are pretty reliable symptoms that you’re not getting enough sleep. If you’re more indecisive than usual, and generally more impulsive, you’re probably suffering from sleep deprivation. Don’t worry if your memory isn’t as good as it used to be–that’s likely simply because you’re not getting enough sleep. If you’re more emotional than usual, or clumsier than usual, those might also be because you’re not getting enough sleep. If you struggle with getting an adequate amount of sleep, I strongly suggest overhauling your sleep in 30 days.
When Your Diet Starts to Suffer due to Poor Sleep Habits
Lack of sleep causes the stomach to release more of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Usually, the satiety hormone leptin signals the brain when you’re full, but without enough sleep, leptin levels drop. The result is a tendency to overeat because of an increase in appetite and a slowed recognition of when you’ve had enough.
It’s not just about how much you eat but what you eat too. Sleep deprivation causes cravings for unhealthy foods like cookies, chips, and candy. The reward center of the brain gets a bigger “high” than normal from these unhealthy foods. Sleep deprivation also activates the endocannabinoid system, which explains why you may get a case of the munchies.
When Your Body Starts to Suffer from Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation doesn’t just have an effect on your choices, or how hungry you feel. There is some growing research which shows that sleep deprivation may, in fact, affect your metabolism.
Poor sleep doesn’t just affect the metabolism of people with a sleep disorder. It can affect those who work shifts or nights, as well as anyone who doesn’t have a regular sleep schedule. Scientists also believe that sleep loss might be related to glucose metabolism, which could lead to an increased risk of diabetes, though this is a link that isn’t yet understood.
A Danish study found that sleep fragmentation is linked to a higher BMI in older male patients. The study concluded that:
“A highly fragmented sleep is associated with a higher BMI and a higher risk of obesity, and may explain why short sleep is related to obesity.”
Basically, it’s likely that both your decisions and your body’s internal processes are being affected by your lack of sleep. Better sleep is possible and more attainable than you might think, but there are a few things you need to consider.
The easiest and most important way to ensure you’re getting enough good sleep is by practicing good sleep hygiene. Below are some tips on how to ensure you’re doing that. Don’t worry if you don’t fall into them overnight, and remember, persevere. You’ll start seeing results sooner than you think.
How to Practice Better Sleep Hygiene
The human body is built to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when it’s light. While that works for a majority of the population, a global economy has changed that for many people. Night shift workers face particular challenges because they’re working against their own biology. On that note, if you have a completely stressed out life, no matter what kind of sleep hygiene you have, you won’t be able to overcome your sleep deprivation. You’re going to need to overhaul your stress in 30 days in order to get good sleep. Be encouraged, by conquering stress and creating a sleep supportive environment and good sleep habits you will get better sleep.
Create an Ideal Sleep Environment
Three environmental factors help your body sleep—light, temperature, and sound. Whether you’re on an irregular sleep schedule or not, block all light out of the room as it can suppress sleep hormones. You might need a sleep mask if you’re catching your ZZZ’s when it’s bright outside. Turn the thermostat down. Most people sleep comfortably between 60 to 68 degrees because it supports the body’s need to drop its temperature while asleep. Finally, keep outside noise to a minimum. You can’t always control noisy neighbors or passing cars so a white noise machine can be invaluable.
Go to Bed
This might sound silly but it’s not uncommon to find yourself staying up for one more episode on Netflix or to finish a work presentation. However, committing to a reasonable bedtime can do wonders for the quality of your sleep. Predictability allows your brain to anticipate the timing of sleep hormones. Try to get to bed at the same time every night and see how much better you sleep.
Love Your Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine helps you relieve stress and signals the brain start the sleep cycle. You can include anything in your routine as long as it relaxes you. Personally, I love this Soul Time app. Since everything from changing into your pajamas and brushing your teeth is part of the routine, try to perform activities in the same order and begin the routine at the same time for the best results. Some people find baths or showers relaxing, as well as gentle yoga, or simple stretching. Don’t do high-intensity cardio right before bed, as that might make it harder to get to sleep.
Say No to Screens
Watching a screen, whether it’s a smartphone or TV, can suppress sleep hormones due to the bright blue light emitted. Shut them down two to three hours before bed so you stay on schedule for your bedtime. If part of your bedtime routine includes shutting your brain off, opt for an old fashioned book with a dim bedside lamp or an ebook reader that won’t blue light. If you absolutely must be on the screen two hours before bed, these blue blocking glasses are a must-have. They filter 99.5% of blue light out!
Adequate sleep creates a firm foundation on which to build a healthy diet. With consistency and effort, you’ll get the rest you need and make the food choices that will let you live the active lifestyle you want.
GUEST POST BY:
Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.
image code here
image code here