Sleep. It’s one of my superpowers. I can fall asleep without much trouble and usually sleep through the night. I know, lucky me! But due to the current circumstances we’re all facing, I found that my superpower was no match for the kryptonite put before me.
More hours online meant I was staring at a screen, which caused me to toss and turn ALL NIGHT LONG.
The stress of the unknown was also causing my brain to race, and I was not able to turn it off. I had never really given much thought to the importance of sleep until I was faced with disrupted, unrestful sleep, which was taking its toll on my energy levels, mental clarity, and appetite.
So I did what anyone would do when faced with a challenge. I figured out how to solve it.
The Importance of Sleep
As parents, we make sure that our kids get the recommended amount of sleep each night, and many of us have a firm “lights out” by a certain time policy. Unfortunately, when it comes to our own sleep, we’re not as strict, and frankly, we need to be.
Instead of going to bed, we stay up to unwind or get things done when what we really should be doing is going to bed. Sleep is important. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you need restful sleep. Sleep is the time when your body restores, recovers, and regenerates itself. Sleep helps with brain function and helps give you mental clarity. Additionally, sleep is important for your physical health, your immune system, and even your metabolism.
Sleep and Your Metabolism
Sleep doesn’t just play a role in restoring your body and helping you to have greater mental clarity the next day, but it also plays a role in your metabolism. When you don’t sleep, or have interrupted sleep, your body is not going to properly metabolize food.
Wait… what? Yes.
The quality of your sleep matters and plays a role in weight loss. There are two hormones associated with appetite control, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin makes you feel hungry while leptin makes you feel full. When does the body regulate those hormones? You’ve guessed it… when you sleep.
The quality of your sleep can impact your appetite!
Yup. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you might find yourself getting hungry. That’s because without proper sleep, your body releases more ghrelin, and decreases the amount of leptin released, which leads to increased appetite and sugar cravings. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body decreases the amount of leptin released.
According to the Sleep Foundation, “people who don’t get enough sleep eat twice as much fat and more than 300 extra calories the next day, compared with those who sleep for eight hours.” (1)
If that’s not bad enough, when you don’t get enough sleep your body can also release cortisol, which is your stress hormone. Stress can cause your blood sugar to rise. To combat that, your pancreas will secrete insulin, which is your fat storing hormone. This can prevent you from losing weight and can cause you to gain weight. So by getting quality ZZZZs you can help maintain a balance.
So what exactly do you need to do to support better sleep? Grab a notebook, I've got a few ideas for you!
Eat a small meal before bed to help keep blood sugar stabilized throughout the night.
One of the things we teach at Disruptive Nutrition is to eat small meals every 3 hours throughout the day. This helps to keep your blood sugar balanced. We not only eat within one hour of waking up in the morning, but we also eat within one hour of going to bed. This nighttime meal helps to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the night, and that in turn promotes restful sleep.
Have a coffee or caffeine cut-off time
Many of us drink coffee in order to feel energized, but it’s important to cut off your caffeine consumption because caffeine has a half life, so your afternoon cup of Joe could be impacting your ability to fall asleep and more importantly stay asleep. You also should beware of the caffeinated tea and Fizz sticks late in the day.
Limit your intake of alcohol before bed as that can disrupt your sleep
Yes, I know that many of you are thinking, Hey! I have a drink to unwind at the end of a crazy day, or my nightcap helps me fall asleep. Unfortunately, that nightcap might be cutting into your REM sleep by reducing the time spent in REM, or the stage of sleep where you dream. REM sleep is thought to be restorative and is important for learning and memory.
Minimize your exposure to blue light
Blue light is a shortwave light that is emitted from your devices. Blue light can have an impact on your levels of melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates sleep. (2) While it is EXTREMELY challenging to avoid blue light at this time in our lives, wearing the ever so fashionable blue light blocking glasses during screen time can help. Here are the ones I wear. You can also change the settings so that your screen emits less blue light.
Create a sleep schedule
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it’s important to wake up at the same time every day. Yes that means on the weekends as well. I know you might like to sleep in, but when you sleep in you might want to stay up later. By constantly adjusting your bed and wake times, you are actually mimicking jet lag. So it’s important to set a firm schedule.
Create a strong morning routine
Yes. What you do first thing in the morning not only impacts you day, but also has an impact on your sleep. Getting up in the morning and not hitting the snooze button is important. When you have a set morning routine you are better prepared to tackle what the day brings, which can reduce your levels of stress. This can have an important impact on our sleep.
As adults we might minimize the importance of sleep, but it’s just as important for us as it is for our kids. We need to get a good night’s sleep to help keep hormones in balance, allow our bodies to restore and recover from the day, support a healthy metabolism, boosts energy and mental clarity, and strengthen your immune system.
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