I know of someone who put his sleeping habits aside to get through finals and gained 5 pounds in about 9 days. He didn’t change any other lifestyle factors or habits either. He stuck with his schedule for exercise, his same eating routine, same foods and amounts. A drastic reduction in sleep was the only variable that was changed. Because of this, he was at the mercy of his hormones.
When we don’t get our sleep, our hormones get all out of whack and our metabolism changes drastically. This goes for your quality of sleep as well as getting enough of it. Here are some tips on how to get yours.
1.) Go to bed early. No matter when you have to get up in the morning, see if you can get to bed before 10 pm (or earlier if you get up before 6 am). Most people stay up late when they think they can count on sleeping in, but that doesn’t always happen and even if it does, morning hours are harder to get quality sleep anyway because your likelihood of being woken up increases and when the sun comes up, your body wants to wake up. If you follow a schedule and get to bed roughly the same time each night, your circadian rhythms will work with your hormones to optimize fat loss.
2.) Avoid caffeine after lunch. Obviously, it is harder to get to sleep when you have a stimulant in your system.
3.) Time your workout. Everyone has different bio rhythms, so some people sleep better with an evening workout and others with a morning workout. For me, it’s the afternoon that is the best time to train for a good night’s sleep. Try different times of day and see what works for you and what doesn’t. Then stick with that schedule.
4.) Stay away from food within 2 hours of pillow time. A full stomach keeps your digestion cranking while you are trying to sleep and if your tummy can’t go to sleep, it wants the other parts of you to stay awake and keep it company. Even if your head is able to fall asleep, your other systems will degrade the quality of your sleep while they are working on the food and partying with your stomach. You will also be more likely to store food as fat when you are sleeping and digesting at the same time.
5.) Turn off the TV. Glowing screens from electronics such as TV, computers, tablets and e-readers signal your mind to stay in the alert brain wave range. Power down at least an hour before hitting the hay.
6.) Keep your work out of the bed. This gets your mind amped up and makes it hard to turn it off. Bed time is your time. It’s for decompressing. Your brain goes through a process each night much like defragmenting a hard drive, so let it do its thing and you’ll be more refreshed, sharper and better able to get stuff done the next day.
7.) Light reading can help you doze off. If your parents read bedtime stories to you as a kid, you are already programmed to get sleepy with a book in bed. Make it something light and fun and you will find yourself ending your day in a good mood. The mood you are in when you go to sleep sets the tone for your subconscious to work on stuff in that mode while you are out. I think this is one of the reasons the Apostle Paul (arguably the most talented cognitive psychologist of all time) told us in Ephesians 4:26 not to let the sun go down on our anger.
I have written on sleep in previous posts, even suggesting ways to burn more fat while you sleep and it is a vital part of our fitness physiology. You spend 1/3 of your life in this state, so doesn’t it make sense to make every minute of it work for you and your fitness goals?
To help drive the point home, here is a super cool infographic from http://frugaldad.com/sleep/