America is clearly losing the battle of the bulge with more than 66% of us overweight and 33% of us obese. Given that statistic, it is no wonder that the most commonly set New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. Everyone is looking for quick fixes and long term cures for losing the weight they want to lose and then keeping it off. Unfortunately, most of us won’t put any effort towards the one thing that might have the biggest impact on whether we succeed or fail, the amount of sleep we get.
In recent years, sleep researchers have gained a better understanding of how sleep can impact our health, especially our weight. Various studies have established a link between the hormonal changes that occur when we are sleep deprived and challenges with energy level, metabolism, and weight control. In essence, when we don’t get enough sleep, we gain weight and the more weight we gain, the harder it is for us to get the sleep we need to be healthy. Likewise, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have shown that losing weight can help you get the sleep you need.
So if your goal this year is to finally lose weight, make sure your weight loss program includes a healthy diet, lots of exercise, drinking water, AND getting all the sleep you need. Here are some tips to help you develop the kind of healthy sleep habits you need to support weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.
1. Set a Schedule
While few of us like to do this, it is one of the best ways to safeguard your sleep. Pick a bedtime and a wake-up time that suits your lifestyle and allows you to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night and then stick to it every day, even on weekends.
2. Don’t Get Into Debt
This is good financial advice but it also matters when we are talking about sleep. Sleep debt accumulates when you routinely don’t get the sleep you need. For example, if you generally need 7 hours of sleep each night but you are only getting 5, you are racking up 2 hours in sleep debt every night. That debt accumulates and counts as chronic sleep deprivation which causes significant health problems.
3. Use Naps to Manage Sleep Anomalies
No matter how hard we try to stick to a sleep schedule, there will always be times when we just can’t get the sleep we need on a given night. When this happens, try to plan for it in advance. For example, if you have plans on Saturday night with friends that will keep you up late, take an afternoon nap before you go to make up for the sleep you will lose that night.
4. Create an Environment Conducive to Sleep
Make sure your bedroom is a sleep haven with a comfortable bed, a soft pillow, and cozy blankets. Check that things like light levels, noise levels, and temperature are not going to keep you from getting the sleep you need.