The fourth element of healthy weight loss: catch those Zzzzs

Image: Kinga Cichewicz via Unsplash

Image: Kinga Cichewicz via Unsplash

If you haven't been following along, this month I've been sharing what I consider to be the four most important elements of healthy weight loss.

It's been a funny exercise to put these four elements (food, hormones, exercise and now sleep) in order for this series, as each element is critical to losing pounds in a sustainable, healthy way.

As we reach the fourth element, sleep, I find myself thinking what I've thought for each post: sleep is SO important if you want to shed pounds and maintain a new body weight. 

How Sleep Works

Sleep is a naturally occurring, periodic and recurring period in which consciousness and muscular activity is temporarily suspended or diminished.

When we sleep, our body goes through 90 minute cycles of REM - rapid eye movement - and non-REM sleep. REM sleep is great for our brains - it stimulates the mind, sends energy to the brain, and, some argue, stimulates our creativity. This is when we most often experience dreaming.

Non-REM sleep is the opposite of stimulating - it allows our bodies to fully relax, our blood pressure to drop and our breathing to slow. This is when the body does its restorative work, repairing damaged tissue and other ailments.

REM sleep should comprise about 25% of your night, and non-REM, about 75% - but it's the combination of the two that leaves us feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day in the morning.

How Sleep Affects Weight Loss

Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same part of the brain. When you're overtired, your brain also tells you you're hungry - it's trying to provide the body with more nutrients to help with energy levels.

You can have the most rock-solid eating plan, but without consistent nights of good sleep, you'll continue to feel hungry when you're not, and crave dense or sweet foods that set your weight loss goals way back.

How to Sleep Well

Ever heard of sleep hygiene? It's kind of a funny term, but its importance cannot be overrated: it refers to the habits and practices you adopt around your sleep. 

Good sleep hygiene can set you up for consistently good, deep sleeps, an active and healthy brain, a repaired body, and sustained weight loss.

Bad sleep hygiene can leave you depleted, restless, and with unmanageable food cravings the next day.

4 Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene:

  1. Consistent bed & wake-up times
    One of the most positive things you can do for your sleep, and your mood, is to set a bed time and wake-up time, and stick to it. Soon your body will adjust to the rythem you've set for it, you'll fall asleep faster, and wake up feeling more refreshed (and maybe even without an alarm!).

  2. No late-night snacking
    Try to stop eating at least an hour before bedtime; it's hard for your body to enter a deep sleep state while your digestive system is still hard at work.

  3. Low-to-no lighting
    Do you have one of those orangey-red glowing digital clocks in your bedroom? Ditch it. One of the best things you can do to lower bed-time stress and send your body off to sleep is to remove any excess light in the bedroom. Live in an apartment with a lot of night pollution outside your window? Try a sleep mask for added darkness.

    I cannot stress this one enough - put down your smart phone, turn off the TV and stay the heck away from your tablet for at least an hour before bed. Screens are being shown in more and more studies to have a very negative impact on the mind as it tries to wind down before bed. If you do need to work late or look at your phone after 9 pm for any reason, try adjusting the screen's brightness and hue so that it's gentler on the eyes - and the brain.

Weight loss doesn’t have to be include deprivation if your approach is holistic, sustainable, and done in a way that positively improves your whole life. By adhering to all four of my elements of healthy weight loss you'll ensure you're taking the pounds off in a way that's good for your body, and developing life long habits for good health! 

In the spirit of a healthy 2018, I'm running a new holistic & results-focused weight loss program at Tall Tree Integrated Health. Find out more.

Steph Bowen