You’re training regularly, and eating healthy but you’re busy and stressed and not losing any weight.
Chances are you’re just not spending enough time in bed.
There’s nothing as refreshing as a good night’s sleep but how often does that happen? Between work and personal responsibilities, most of us are lucky to string together 5-6 hours of intermittent sleep and wake up in a grumpy haze that doesn’t go away till the bottom of that second cup of coffee.
Let’s see how getting a few more Zs (or even just better quality ones) can help you lose fat fast.
You Need To Sleep To Lose Fat
Dr. Anne Calhoun, a neurology professor at University of North Carolina, said it best: “The foundations of good health are good diet, good exercise and good sleep, but two out of three doesn’t get you there.”
Despite your best efforts in the gym and the kitchen, a lack of sleep may be wrecking your progress toward a leaner, healthier you.
Getting less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night can lead to an increased risk for heart disease and obesity, a compromised immune system, and poor exercise performance. A lack of sleep will even make you crave sugar, which can make it harder to choose that kale salad over the plate of fries. Sleep loss will sabotage you at every point on your fitness journey.
We don’t usually intend to deprive ourselves of sleep.
It’s usually just the first thing that gets pushed aside when we’re busy. Between making time for ourselves, our careers, our families and friends, it’s easy to keep pushing our bedtimes later and later but the alarm still goes off at the same time every morning and it’s back to work.
But What if You Just Can’t Sleep More?
It turns out there’s hope, even for the most sleep-deprived out there.
Even if 7-8 hours of sleep is completely out of the question, you can make those 5 hours you ARE getting as high quality as possible and still get better results than you do now. With a few small changes to your sleep hygiene you can improve your sleep quality, mood, energy levels, and rate of fat loss. It’s a domino effect that you kickstart in your sleep!
If you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, try these tips:
- Have a consistent bedtime. Your body’s internal clock will eventually get tired and groggy as a habit around that time and make it easier for you to fall into a deep sleep.
- Develop a bedtime routine. Start about 30 minutes before going to bed. It can include things like brushing your teeth, reading some light fiction, chatting with a loved one, and just generally being lazy. You want to unwind after your day and prepare your body to let go and sleep.
- Dim the lights and switch to red/orange hues 30 mins before bedtime. Bright lights (especially if they have blue hues in them) keep you wide awake. Dim red/orange lighting will cue drowsiness and make it easier to drift off
- No screen time 30 minutes before bedtime. The bright lights and blue hues will keep you awake. If you must use your computer before bed, there is an app called F.lux that will filter out blue light from your screen to calm you down. You can get similar apps for your smart phone (the new iOS has this built in and for Android, there’s a great free app called Twilight)
- Avoid napping close to bedtime. This can affect your normal sleeping pattern
- No big meals within an hour of sleeping. If your body is trying to digest new food, it’s harder for it to relax
- Keep your bedroom cool and dry
- Black out your bedroom and keep it as dark as you can. Too much light can negatively affect your sleep cycles. Also, remove all unnecessary electronics from your bedroom
- Only use your bed for sleep. If your body is used to going to sleep when you get into bed, you’ll have an almost pavlovian response to it. If you start doing work, eating, or doing anything else in bed, you mess with that cue. Ok, ok… There’s one other thing you can do in bed. But that’s it. 😉
- Supplement with Magnesium. If you have trouble relaxing, try supplementing with magnesium 30 mins before going to sleep. Start with 100mg and see how you feel.
Make these changes one at a time and see how you feel. Even if you’re only getting very little sleep and getting more isn’t workable, you might as well make sure that what you do get is the best quality you can have.
Finally, on the days when a few hours of sleep is all you can manage, know yourself. If you know that a lack of sleep makes you crave sugar, maybe try not to pass by the bakery on your way to work when you’ve only slept 4 hours. Do what you can to make success easy for you and if you do slip up, it’s ok. A slip is not a fall. You’re never more than one meal away from getting back on track. 🙂
Got a great bedtime routine that puts you out like a light? Share it with us in the comments below!