Your mamma always told you that you need 8 hours of sleep at night, right? Turns out, she’s right. Without that requisite 8 hours, your body can’t produce the necessary hormones that help promote a healthy weight. Who’d a thunk it?
So, it’s not just that sleeping soundly for at least eight hours a night is heavenly. It’s that getting a good night’s rest is one of the best things you can do for yourself healthwise.
Here’s why. We sleep in two-hour cycles which repeat in progressive blocks of 2 hours each, which provide deeper and deeper levels of sleep. REM sleep is the goal.
Stage 1 (first two hours) almost awake, rouse easily—non-REM sleep
Stage 2 (second two hours—hours 2-4) a little deeper
Stage 3 (third two hours—hours 5-6) provides approx 40% REM
Stage 4 (fourth two hours—7-8) Dream sleep—REM
So if you only get 4 hours of sleep—you never do get to your REM sleep.
Even 6 hours only gets you 40% of your much needed REM and girlfriends, it ain’t enough.
Now, here’s the techy part: if we don’t get to REM sleep, our bodies can’t produce the hormones we need to HELP us control our hunger. Yes, that’s what I said. You thought it was lack of willpower, didn’t you? Truth be told, if you don’t get to REM sleep, then you don’t get your weight protection hormones and you honestly CAN’T resist food.
It has to do with Leptins and Ghrelins and some other ‘stuff’. Bottom line, lack of sleep kicks in your famine protection program and makes your body THINK you’re starving and demands that you eat – all because you didn’t get enough sleep.
The “freshman 20 (or 40!) weight gain in college is not just related to the junk food and the large quantities of it, but to sleep loss.
Just one more note on this: REM sleep is the most important because this is when most of your Leptin is made. Higher leptin: amplifies feeling of fullness. Low leptin—leads to badly altered fat stores and fat storage goes to liver and abdomen.
Okay. So now that we know, how do we get that much needed 8 hours of sleep?
Unfortunately with our hectic lifestyles, many factors can disrupt sleepy time. Since both quality and quantity are important, here are some simple tips to help you improve your zzz’s once and for all!
- No Booze Before Bedtime: Alcohol is not a sleep aid. A glass of wine might help you drift off, but alcohol actually disrupts sleep patterns— especially for women — in the latter half of the night.
- No Late-Night Workouts: Get your last workout in three-four hours before bedtime. Physical activity can promote deeper sleep but you don’t want to work out right before bed as it stimulates the body and may make falling asleep more difficult. If you’re having a hard time winding down, try deep breathing to help you drift off to sleep.
- No Big Meals Before Bedtime: Stop eating at least two hours before bed, especially carbs and sugar. Your ghrelin (hunger hormone) needs to be high in order to slip into deep sleep, but since carbs lower this hormone, they may prevent you from drifting into dreamland. Not to mention, if your stomach is full or you’re digesting a big meal, it’s hard to fall asleep, especially if lying down gives you heartburn.
- Tech and Sleep Don’t Mix: Keep your laptop, BlackBerry, and other gadgets out of the bedroom. Watching television, checking emails, or reading articles on websites can disrupt sleeping patterns. The artificial light emitted from these devices suppresses the release of the sleep-producing hormone melatonin. Also studies show that texting in bed can cause anxiety. I know, your Twitter updates will have to wait until the morning, sorry.
- Make your bedroom your sleep sanctuary by reducing as much noise and light in the room as possible. Even a little bit of light can throw off your sleep cycle — even light from a digital clock. If you don’t have blackout shades and your room isn’t very dark, try wearing a sleep mask. And keep your room at a comfortable temperature — somewhere between 54 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Get ready for bed before you’re ready for bed. Who among us doesn’t fall asleep watching TV from time to time? If you think that’s a possibility, get into your jammies before you settle down before the TV. Have your bed turned down, all your last minute chores done so that if you fall asleep, when you wake up on the couch, all you have to do is toddle into bed and tuck in under the covers.
- Try to drink the bulk of your fluids before 1:00 pm so you don’t wake up from you precious sleep for a bathroom run.
Okay. That’s all I’ve got. What about you? Do you get your 8 hours of sleep? Did you know that lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain? What are some of the tricks you use to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and get you those 8 precious hours that your need and deserve?