In a world full of work deadlines, family obligations, and stress, sleep can be much needed, yet hard to find. Research has shown that forgoing sleep can make you a driving hazard, and put you at risk for health hazards, including an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and mood disorders.
But you don’t need to stay in bed all day to reduce these risks. Sleeping the recommended 7 to 8 hours nightly can potentially overhaul your health and whittle your waistline. One of the most comprehensive studies on the connection between limited sleep and weight gain highlights the fact that sleep-restricted subjects packed on pounds and consumed more calories, over 550 more calories per day on average, than those who got an adequate night’s sleep.
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why there’s a connection between diet and sleep. One hypothesis is that sleep deprivation interferes with hormones that regulate hunger and satiety. When you don’t get sufficient shuteye, levels of the satiety hormone, leptin, drop, so even if you eat enough, you will not feel satisfied, prompting you to continue to eat more than your body really needs. Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, is then produced in excess, which also causes you to eat more.
The link between diet and sleep can be compared to the chicken or egg problem — which comes first? You need to eat healthfully to sleep soundly, while getting enough zzz’s also encourages a healthy diet and lifestyle. Regardless of the reason for a disrupted sleep cycle, here are some tips to help you sleep easier and maybe even shed a few pounds:
Eat a variety of foods. A study from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine found that those who consume a large variety of foods (an indicator of a healthy diet) are more likely to sleep a healthy 7 to 8 hours a night. It was also found that very short sleepers (less than 5 hours a night) drank less water. Short sleepers (5 to 6 hours a night) ate the most calories.
Boost protein & whole grains throughout the day. This combination will prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking, avoiding an afternoon crash. Try oatmeal and berries for breakfast, a hefty salad filled with veggies, quinoa, and beans for lunch, and lean meat or fish with veggies for dinner.
Have your evening meal several hours before hitting the hay. Fill up on protein and B vitamins (think lean meat, dark leafy greens, and whole grains), but leave time for digestion because going to bed on a full stomach will keep you awake, especially if you suffer from reflux or GERD.
Choose your bedtime snack carefully! Avoid simple carbs and sugars, which can rev you up, and fats, which are slow to digest, making it harder to fall asleep. Opt for complex carbs and grains that can stimulate the release of serotonin, a chemical in your brain that makes you feel relaxed. Try a small bedtime bowl of oatmeal – it’s rich in carbs as well as melatonin, a natural sleep enhancer.
Find slumber-inducers in your kitchen: Certain foods, like fish, yogurt and jasmine rice, can naturally help you count sheep. You might be surprised about other foods that can help sleep.
Sip soothing tea. Chamomile tea can calm you and peppermint tea may soothe an upset stomach. Sipping on a warm mug of comfort before bed can prevent overeating and unnecessary snacking while bringing its own natural benefits.
Nix your nightcap: While alcohol may help you fall asleep quickly, it will lead to early rising or several wake ups during the night. If your evening is filled with cheer, make sure it’s several hours before you turn in.
Unplug. It may be best to turn off emails, Facebook posts and tweets an hour or two before you turn down. Screen time right before bed could hamper sleep time.
Ease stress. Before turning in, make a list of what you accomplished during the day and make note of what’s on your to-do list for tomorrow. It may help to keep a pad and pen on your nightstand to help transfer your thoughts from your head to your paper. Knowing you’ve written it down will help you drift to sleep seamlessly.
Exercise! For some people, a good workout can help you rest peacefully at night, but if you work out too close to bedtime, it can keep you tossing and turning. It’s important to be aware of the routine that works for your particular body.
And perhaps the most obvious reason to not burn the midnight oil is because the more hours you’re awake…the more time you have to eat!
(Source: Everyday Health)