I believe sleep and our response to stress are two habits that affect weight loss and health as much as diet and exercise.
We should spend approximately a third of our life sleeping. Unfortunately, few of us put much effort into ensuring we get quality sleep. We fall into bed for as much time as we can practically sacrifice.
According to Harvard Medical School, insufficient sleep can
- Increase risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other medical conditions
- Increase risk of obesity
- Cause irritability and stress
- Increase the risk of developing a mood disorder such as anxiety or depression
- Negatively affect mental function and memory
- Affect judgment and safety (drowsy driving causes 1 million crashes each year in the U.S.)
- Over time is associated with shortened lifespan
- Decrease immune function
One study showed that when volunteers were exposed to a cold-causing virus, those who averaged less than seven hours of sleep were three times more likely to suffer cold symptoms than those who got eight hours or more of sleep.
Sleep and Weight Management
Why is sleep a key to weight loss and weight loss maintenance? Studies have shown that insufficient sleep over time is likely to contribute to the current type 2 diabetes and obesity epidemics in adults and children.
Insufficient sleep may affect your weight because
- Hormones involved in metabolism, appetite, and stress response are altered
- We often eat to compensate for lack of energy or tiredness
- Increased stress due to hormone imbalance, fatigue, and anxiety causes us to eat more
- Our ability to make healthy choices is impacted
- Exercise performance is negatively impacted due to fatigue
- Decision making skills and resources are negatively impacted
Poor sleep habits create additional challenges to following your eating and exercise program and good sleep habits set you up for success.
Setting a Healthy Sleep Routine
I didn’t think much about sleep habits until I had a newborn. Then, creating good sleep habits became the major focus of my life.
Setting up healthy sleep habits and routines for adults is pretty similar to what you would do for a baby.
- Create a consistent schedule with a calming pre-sleep routine
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even weekends
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bedtime (yeah, especially for that baby :))
- Exercise earlier in the day, not too close to bedtime
- Expose yourself to bright light during the day, then lower the lights at night and avoid electronics before bed
- Ensure your bedroom is a soothing, dark, and uncluttered environment
Weekly Challenge: Commit to cultivating healthy sleep habits.
- Assess your sleep needs. Most adults need 7.5-8.5 hours
- Set a consistent pre-bed routine using the steps above
- Log daily sleep and wake time, exercise and eating to view any patterns All in One Daily PlannerResources to Help You Sleep Better
National Sleep Foundation