Quality sleep should not be overlooked as a key contributor to gaining excess weight. Sure, consistently poor habits around food and beverage choices will result in excess body fat and, to fall within a healthy weight range for your age and height, good habits around both nutrition and exercise need to be followed. But poor-quality and insufficient sleep may seriously affect your health and be a major player to storing visceral fat around your tummy.
You might think that sleep is when your body and brain shuts’ down and falls into a relaxed rhythm to match your breathing, while this is true, it is also when your body and brain get to work to repair and restore nerves and cells, and re-wire your brain so it can store and process all the information you have introduced to your brain through the day.
This year, and with an ageing clientele, conversations around sleep, or the lack of it, have been a common topic in the studio. Women have tried a variety of tactics to overcome their sleepless nights and comparing experiences and shared these thoughts in the best ways to prepare for a good nights’ rest.
There are many reasons’ why people find it difficult to sleep, or stay asleep for a solid seven to nine hours a day. An imbalance in lifestyle, along with hormonal rises and falls, emotions, stress, age, medication, and environmental factors, contribute to poor sleep patterns. The body has a 24-hour clock which naturally controls your wake and sleep cycles in response to light and dark. This is known as your circadian rhythm and your body craves the consistency of wake and sleep patterns. If your circadian rhythm is disrupted, it becomes harder to experience quality sleep, which may lead to insomnia or a condition known as sleep-wake syndrome which occurs when people sleep between two and four hours, three or more times a day.
All this broken sleep plays great havoc on your hormones, particularly melatonin which is said to be helpful in reducing body weight and increasing metabolism. Because melatonin is released from the penial gland in the brain and is responsible for controlling your circadian rhythm, broken sleep or sleeplessness, will greatly affect your natural cognitive brain function, moods, energy levels, and food choices. Over time, low melatonin results in a sluggish metabolism and an inability to burn stored body fat known as fat oxidisation.
So, aiming for quality sleep each and every day, with a time span of between seven and nine hours holds great importance to your cognitive brain, emotional health and physical weight and wellbeing.
There is no one sleep formula to suit everyone, however there are steps you can take toward a good nights’ sleep.
Form a Regular Pattern For Sleep and Wake times
As you learned in this article, having a balanced circadian rhythm contributes greatly to quality sleep. There are two main phases of sleep. 1) rapid-eye-movement (REM) where we are known to experience dreams, and 2) non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) being our deeper sleep where the body will repair itself.
Your circadian rhythms make sure your hormones – cortisol and adrenaline, are released about an hour before you naturally need to wake up. When you disrupt your circadian rhythm, you not only confuse your body, but you throw your hormones out too.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol Long Before Bedtime
It is well researched and known that caffeine is a stimulant, so consuming coffee, chocolate, ice-cream or cocoa before bed, in fact, up to six hours before bed, will greatly increase the possibility of you having a restless night.
Alcohol however, is not a stimulant but a depressant and is able to cleverly mask it’s effect on your brain. Several glasses of alcohol will excite your central nervous system and release dopamine in your brain causing you to spark up and feel good, at the time when you need to wind down and rest. By the time your night drinks pass through your body, you have probably studied the ceiling for a few hours already.
Avoid Using Technology In The Bedroom
We touched on the detrimental effect of stimulants in point 2, and technology is no different. The blue light that comes from phone screens, iPads, computers and mini gaming devices, shine in your eyes and send signals to your brain that interfere with your sleep chemical – melatonin.
It takes just 5 consecutive nights of blue light shining in your eyes, to shift your natural body clock pattern by 90 minutes. That is, it tricks your brain into thinking that it can stay awake 90 minutes more and sleep in 90 minutes longer.
Relax Your Mind With Intention
It is possible for the right kind of music to relax and calm the mind, as it is possible for the focused drawing of breath and slow drawn out moves of yoga, to do the same. Knowing this means that improved sleep is possible and available to you if you use intent and make your environment conducive to rest.
Taking slow, deep breaths tells your brain and body to relax. By balancing your nervous system through a gentle series of stretches while still in mindfulness, allows the brain-body relaxation process to the effect that playing soft, gentle music in your bedroom, will also greatly assist your chance of quality sleep.
Set Up Your Bedroom For Comfort and Quiet
How you design your room aesthetically, and in temperature and light regulation at bedtime, will greatly affect the quality of sleep you get each day. Your mattress and pillow should also be high quality to offer you the greatest comfort.
The colours you choose to decorate your room can also set the right mood. Loud, bold or bright colours will stimulate your brain opposed to light, warm and neutral colours that create a zen oasis. Further, a neat room also sends a message of order and comfort to your brain.
Allow your circadian rhythm to work it’s magic with a bedroom that is dark. Block moonlight and side table lamps – any light at all that can be seen. The darker your room, the more soundly you will sleep.
It’s never comfortable to sleep in an environment that’s too warm so aim to have your bedroom slightly cooler than room temperature. If it’s cool outside, open a window slightly to allow fresh cool air to circulate while you sleep, and sleeping naked also regulates natural body temperature. It beats pyjamas!
When it comes to noise, any sound that is loud, sudden, and sharp is likely to wake you or keep you from being able to fall asleep, so try to avoid noise in your sleep environment. Having said that, some people love to sleep with music that offers soothing tones designed to relax the brain and body. This of course, is ideal if it assists in sending you to the land of Nod.
There are many things that can rob you of a good night’s sleep, which could throw your hormones out of balance, overstimulate your brain, unbalance your circadian clock, or make your body feel discomfort or possible pain. All these factors put your body and brain in dis-stress, which will contribute to weight gain.
Practicing some or all of these good habits every day will not only sharpen your brain, reduce stress, and give you more energy, but it will regulate your melatonin hormone which supports your ability to regulate a healthy weight range.