The Sleep-Weight Connection

If you are having trouble sleeping, you aren’t alone – about one-third of the adult population worldwide experiences insomnia at least occasionally. And for most of us, the quality of our sleep will decrease at some point in our lives.

We do know that there is a link between inadequate sleep (less than 7.5 hours/night) and weight gain.  Insufficient sleep messes with the hormones that regulate hunger and fullness.  It decreases leptin levels, which make it hard to feel full.  It also increases ghrelin levels, which makes you hungrier.  Great!!! (NOT!)

Try out these tips to improve your sleep, and help you lose those pounds:

  1. Establish a consistent bedtime routine, and try to go to bed at the same time every night.
  2. Get plenty of exercise during the day – but not within 3 hours of bedtime. The more energy you expend during the day, the sleepier you will feel at bedtime.
  3. Reduce or eliminate your intake of caffeine, stimulants and alcohol. Even when consumed early in the day, these can affect sleep. Try not to have caffeine after 3 pm.
  4. Avoid large meals late in the evening. This takes energy and blood for digestion, leaving inadequate amounts for sleep.  Have a light, carbohydrate-rich snack (i.e., ½ cup nonfat yogurt with ½ cup berries, and ¼ cup cereal). It will increase serotonin production in the brain and make you feel more relaxed.
  5. Turn off all electronics one hour before bed. TV and computer screens emit blue light, which suppresses melatonin production in the brain. So, shut off the gadgets and pick up a book (or just cuddle with someone you love).
  6. Learn and practice a relaxation technique regularly: Breathing exercises, meditation and yoga are good examples.
  7. Chamomile tea works wonders for relaxation and promoting sleepiness.
  8. Aromatherapy – Lavender has been shown to promote relaxation. Try inhaling some lavender oil before you go to sleep or putting drops of lavender on your pillow.
  9. Supplements, like Valerian, Melatonin, Magnesium, and kava kava have been shown to help with insomnia. HOWEVER, there is no regulation over supplements for purity, nor are you assured that you are actually getting the amount that the manufacturers claim are in the bottle. If you want to try an herbal remedy, first consult with a practitioner who specializes in supplements (a Registered Dietitian, Naturopath, Chinese medicine doctor).
  10. Don’t obsess about not sleeping. Instead, remind yourself that while sleeplessness is troublesome, it isn’t life-threatening.

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