Getting a good night’s sleep is possibly the #1 most important thing you can do for your own health. When you don’t get enough sleep, even if you’re not feeling tired, your body is feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can impact everything from energy levels, memory, immunity, and physical and mental health. It can even be an important factor in curbing cravings and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
Let's start with a little science. Ghrelin and Leptin are two hormones that regulate your appetite. Researchers are still figuring out exactly how they impact different functions in the body, but put very simply, ghrelin is a hormone that makes you feel hungry, while leptin is a hormone that decreases your hunger.
If part of your long term health goals is to lose weight, you’re probably wondering how can I get more of that leptin?! There’s something really simple that everyone can do to keep their leptin levels high and keep cravings under control: sleep well.
Most adults require 6-8 hours of sleep per night. Research studies have found that shorter sleep periods (6 hours or less) Lowered overall daily leptin levels, which caused an increase in appetite and even made people crave carbs. In short, getting sufficient sleep reduces hunger, curbs cravings and will therefore assist you in getting off of sugar and improving your health for the long term.
Here are five of my top tips to help you maximize that precious time to support reduced cravings and improved overall health.
1. Turn off the Media
You’ve heard it before… shut off your devices at least an hour before bed time. Easier said than done, right? First of all, sleeping with your phone in another room (or at least not next to your bedside) is critical in making this happen. Before you start making excuses about why you NEED your phone next to your bed, let me assure you, if anyone is really trying to reach you they will call (keep your ringer set to “on” if that makes you feel better). If you think you need a phone to wake up in the morning, do as I did a few years ago and invest in the cutting edge technology of an ALARM CLOCK. Yes, these things still exist and you can even find one that will let you wake up to the sounds of chimes or better yet the sounds of animals in the jungle.
2. Slow Down
We go and go and go and go and then expect our minds and bodies to just be able to STOP. Once you’ve been off of the screen for an hour, it’s a great time incorporate deep breathing into your routine. This will help to slow down your system and prepare you for a deep and restful sleep. If you are just starting out, simply placing one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your heart and taking a few slow, deep breaths can make all the difference in the world. Inhale to the count of 4, hold for 1, and exhale to the count of 4. Try to do this 5 times, working your way up to ten breaths.
3. Timing is Everything
Getting to bed and waking up at the same time each day will support healthy sleep cycles and keep your energy up when you need it most. While you might want to sleep in for an extra hour on the weekends, try not to fluctuate too much or you may feel it on Monday morning! Whether your body requires 6, 7, or 8 hours of sleep per night, keeping it consistent is the best way to create healthy sleep habits and support optimal overall health.
4. (Don’t) Leave the Light On
Sleeping in a dark room is just as important as keeping your eyes off of the bright light an hour or more before bed. Tonight when you go to sleep, look around. How many lights do you see? The cable box? Charging light on your kindle? Your smoke detector? The flickering motion detector at your next door neighbors house? The best way to cut out all unwanted light is to sleep with a sleep mask. It takes a bit of getting used to, but using a mask like this one is a game changer.
5. Limit the Caffeine
Caffeine might seem like an obvious factor, but you might not think caffeine impacts their sleep, until you get off of it. For some people having a cup or two before noon doesn’t cause any trouble, but for others it might be impacting their sleep quality without even realizing it. Also don’t forget that snacks made with cacao or dark chocolate will also contain caffeine.
Click here to DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP. Your own 10-Day Sleep Journal worksheet is included with the guide. Here you can record what time you wake up, what time you fall asleep, and whether or not you were successful in sticking to the five tips above. Note how your energy levels, mood, and cravings are each day to learn what works best for you!