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Sleep Yourself Into Shape
It is almost impossible to avoid the many 2, 4 or 6 week ‘miracle’ exercise or diet programmes that are constantly bombarded into the public domain, especially at a time like this, getting people ready for the Christmas party season, and even more so when January hits…
Sadly, the results of these quick fixes (if you get any at all) never last, and they tend to be quite unpleasant to implement. I mean, I don’t care how much weight it would strip off, I’m not going to recommend that anyone lives off aloe vera gel instead of food for a few days, or swaps meals for overpriced milkshakes, not for anything. I’m also not going to recommend that a previously sedentary person buys a DVD that instructs them to, basically, go crazy and jump around in their front room for an hour a day for a few weeks to get a ‘transformation’. They are more likely to get a snapped knee ligament.
So, instead of some extreme diet or exercise regime with a short term focus, I am going to suggest something much simpler for you to try this autumn, something that will serve you well as a lifelong healthy habit and be very pleasant indeed… sleeping more!
Weight gain is not just a matter of ‘eating more calories than we need’, it is a complex hormonal issue. Our hormones make us feel hungry or full, happy or sad, energised or lethargic, stressed or relaxed, control blood sugar levels, store fat and much, much more. When these hormones are imbalanced, we tend to put on weight, and feel less than ok.
Sleep is the best and most accessible way to ensure our hormones are balanced. Unsurprisingly therefore, sleep is one of the few things directly correlated to weight. Quite simply, the less you sleep, the more likely you are to be overweight, and on the whole, people are sleeping less and less…
Not only will more sleep mean the hormones dictating your appetite and mood are in balance, meaning you will tend to eat less, but you will feel so much better and have so much more energy that you are far more likely to be generally active and to decide NOT to skip the gym session! You will also heal and recover far faster from any activity that you do decide to do.
Of course there are many more complex benefits to sleeping more, it is linked to improved mental health and boosted immunity among other things, but simply the benefits to your diet and activity alone make it an incredibly simple way to boot your health.
Lack of sleep costs the global economy billions in underperforming and sick staff and health care costs, and sleep improvement is now a rapidly growing and valuable industry. Despite the high cost of sleep drugs and aids, they are not always the best solution. The below tips are free, and will get you started on your journey to feeling better, looking better and weighing less.
Tips for better sleep:
Devices & Melatonin: Electronic devices produce a wavelength of light that inhibits our body’s production of the sleep encouraging hormone Melatonin. It is therefore widely recommended that we avoid all devices for at least an hour before bed.
Exercise: Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have an average of 90 minutes more sleep per night. So, given the other physical and mental benefits, making regular exercise a part of your life is an absolute must.
Sleep cocktail: 2 tbsp of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with 1 tbsp of raw honey in hot water is reputed to have a host of health benefits, one of which is to help you sleep better and feel more refreshed in the morning.
Keep it cool: Research has shown that the optimal sleep environment temperature is around 14 – 18 degrees Celsius, this is because the core body temperature needs to drop by half a degree to enable deep sleep, so keep it cool!
Cut caffeine: Everyone knows caffeine is a strong stimulant, yet it is often consumed well into the late afternoon and evening. Studies have shown it is best to leave at least 6 hours between your last caffeinated drink and bedtime, and it can stay in the system for up to 12 hours, so the longer the better really.
Brain dump: Many people struggle to switch off their mind at night. Keeping a note pad by the bed and scribbling down everything you can remember that you need to do the next day will help to clear your mind and allow for a more relaxed passage into sleep. It may also have the benefit of “auto-suggestion” a phrase coined by Napoleon Hill, whereby you implant suggestions into your mind (your to do list) before bed, and you often wake up with answers, having solved problems in your sleep!
Alcohol: Many people drink to relax and unwind after a stressful day. Whilst people often feel more relaxed after a drink, it actually stimulates the brain and the metabolism which is unhelpful at bedtime. Alcohol assisted sleep is less restful and more disturbed.
Meditation: Among the many physical and mental benefits of meditation is improved sleep. Those who meditate tend to sleep longer and deeper than those who don’t, so it is time to become part of the crowd who do! You can learn more by clicking here.
Puzzles: Anything that can calm your mind before bed will help. TV is out due to its effect on Melatonin, so try simple word puzzle books as these can really help you to fall asleep. Nothing too taxing though or you’ll wake yourself up trying to solve it!
Tart cherry juice
Tart cherry juice is rich in melatonin, and drinking 2 small glasses per day has been shown in studies to boost both the quality and duration of sleep.