For most of us when considering overall health, we think of Nutrition and exercise and often overlook the importance of sleep. A recent Gallup poll, 40 percent of all American adults are sleep deprived, getting less than 7hrs of sleep a night.

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” “Time is money” and “ #nodaysoff” are phrases we know all too well in this day and age.

We continuously push through hard days with minimal hours of sleep and rely on strong cups of coffee to keep us awake for it all. We think we are getting ahead of the game when really, we are falling far behind. We approach each day with less and less fuel in the tank until we eventually hit a wall.

What do we do next? Look for the quickest solution of course. We buy a jar of then next best sleep complex that promises some well-earned shut eye. When that doesn’t work, instead of getting some rest we opt for more caffeine. Finally, we have an “oh shit” moment! We snap at our spouse over the toilet seat position, we wake up late for our big exam, fall asleep with food on the stove or to a much greater extent; break our nose on our desk, as did Arianna Huffington of the Huffington post.

We know sleep is important but we fail to make it a priority. Overnight we become these little gremlins! Irritable, road raged, slow, hormonal, and overweight. Yes, I said overweight! Although it may not be as evident as all the other side effects, sleep will also affect that figure your working so hard to maintain. How you might ask? Sleep deprived people have been shown to have lower levels of hormone leptin and reduced production of grehlin. These hormones are also known as the “satiety hormone” and “hunger hormone” this means, your HUGE appetite is never satisfied leading to over-consumption of calories (559 extra/day!!!!).

Overall, establishing a healthier relationship with sleep can help you shed or keep those few extra lbs. in check. Here are a few changes you can make to optimize your sleep:

    1. Get to bed at the right time

      Have you ever slept for more than 8 hours and woke up feeling sluggish? This comes as no surprise, like many other things more sleep isn’t necessarily better. Surprisingly, there is a specific window of time that gives you the most bang for your buck! This is all due in part to your hormone secretion. Your optimal rejuvenating time has been shown to be between 10:00pm and 2:00am. This is when our partner in crime HGH (human growth hormone) is at its optimal helping us recover from that grueling early work out!

 

    1. Train Smart

      Working out and sleep go together like avocado and toast! I’m sure somewhere along the road you’ve heard of the small micro tears that happen in our muscle fibers during our lift sesh. You may also know that the repairs and rebuilding that give us our results really take place during our time of sleep (recovery time). In order for this to happen we need to give our bodies enough time. This means that your 10:00pm work out might prove your commitment but could be detrimental to your body. Morning and early evening workouts have been shown to be the best, they work more closely with your hormonal cycle aiding in recovery making for better “gainz”.

 

    1. Put your damn phone down!

      We are all guilty of it. Lying in bed flipping through our Instagram getting that last dose of social media before we hit the hay. Aside from being a huge distraction from social interaction, blue light from electronic devices greatly affects our sleep. Artificial blue light triggers the release of daytime hormones like cortisol that prepare your body for movement. Secretion of melatonin lowers and screws up your body’s sleep cycle. So, give yourself a break and next time before you reach for your nifty iPad consider reading instead from a good old fashion book.

 

    1. Eat Right

      After a long shift of work and picking up the kids arriving home to prepare dinner sounds like such a drag. Why not instead order a pizza! Sounds like the perfect way to relax and unwind. This may not be as detrimental if we are giving our bodies enough time to balance out blood sugar. With this higher carb meal before bed time, insulin will spike followed by a big sugar crash that will ultimately wake us up midway through our sleep. To prepare your body for the best sleep reach instead for a higher fat lower carb snack or meal towards the end of the night.

 

    1. Shut down your nervous system

      I know this one all too well. It’s part of the vicious cycle, we get less than optimal rest, wake up early still sleepy and are anxiously awaiting that midday caffeine break. We toss back our espresso shot and add on to the already existing pool of caffeine in our body. The long-term effects of caffeine can take days to wear off. In fact, your endocrine system will release adrenaline (the jump of the plane hormone) in response to caffeine intake keeping you alert all through the night. Take control of your “fight or flight” system by setting a cut off time for your cup of joe. For most people this time is around 2 pm maybe earlier for those that are more caffeine sensitive. A 2013 study from Wayne State University and Henry ford in Detroit, Michigan concluded that when caffeine was consumed 6 hours before bed, sleep was decreased by at least 1 hour.

 

Like any other habit, changing our sleep patterns will not happen overnight. However, any step is progress and these small changes can lead to some big results! A few other things you can expect from catching those zzzz’s include:

Better skin health

Better relationships

Hormonal balance

Stronger bones

Lower levels of inflammation

Enhanced immune function and Decrease risk of stroke

Next time before you head out to that 10:00pm work out at 24hr fitness consider how that may affect your productivity the next day. It’s just as important to rest than it is to move. Listen to your body’s signals and on days when you’re practically forcing yourself to stay up try instead a lower intensity work out such as yoga, a little meditation or some stretching to get after it the next day! Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.

Sleep is the best Meditation -The Dalai Lama