Are Poor Sleep Habits Holding You Back?

Do you feel like your goals are often derailed because you’re too tired? Many of my clients voice it to me as just being “lazy”. Very few people realize that their sleep habits are likely to blame. How can you make big changes if you’re exhausted or stressed? Healthy sleep habits are very often overlooked, but sometimes they are the first thing we should change even before we try to start eating healthier or exercising more. The better rested we are, the more successful we are in anything we do!

For more on how poor sleep habits effect nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, read the article below from my guest blogger at Tuck Sleep. Tuck is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NBC News, NPR, Lifehacker, and Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.

How Sleep Deprivation Ruins Healthy Food Choices

Healthy food choices fuel the mind and body for daily living.  When it comes to making these good choices, one thing is often overlooked: healthy sleep habits. Sleep plays an integral role in appetite control and the effect food has on the brain and body.

Hormones released at the right time, in the right amounts, determine how much you eat. Ghrelin, a key hunger hormone, gets released in higher amounts when you haven’t gotten enough sleep. From a survival standpoint, the extra calories would keep you going until you find a safe place to rest. But, today, when sleep deprivation is most likely not a safety issue, you’re left with an unneeded urge to eat.

As ghrelin levels rise, the amount of satiety hormone, leptin, in the bloodstream goes down, which makes it hard for your brain to recognize that you’re full. It’s like a lack of sleep creates the perfect combination for overeating. By the time you get the signal to stop eating, you’ve consumed more calories than your body needs.

Hunger pains aren’t the only thing that change with sleep deprivation. One study found that participants chose snack foods with twice the fat and 50 percent more calories when they’d gotten only four hours of sleep. Without enough rest, the brain changes how it functions. For example, the reward center of the brain gets unusually high rewards, similar to a “runner’s high”, from high-fat, sugary foods. This is the same area of the brain stimulated by marijuana use. Consequently, you get a similar case of the munchies.

Adequate sleep gives you better control over your food choices. The development of healthy sleep habits alongside well-balanced eating put you a step closer to meeting your life goals. However, your sleep habits may need some work.

Good sleep starts in a supportive sleep environment. A mattress that accommodates your weight and preferred sleep style can help eliminate any aches and pains that keep you awake. The bedroom should also be kept cool, dark, and quiet to limit distractions. Depending on your climate, you may need to control the moisture levels in the air with a humidifier or allergens with an air filter.

After you’ve established the right conditions, you can focus on your personal habits. The best place to start is a regular bedtime. The human body uses regular 24-hour cycles to time the release of important hormones, including sleep hormones. Consistency allows your body to correctly time and respond to your body’s signals.

For those who struggle to fall asleep, a nightly bedtime routine may help. Routines help the brain recognize when to release sleep hormones. They also serve the important role of stress and tension relief. Reading a book, taking a warm bath, or drinking a warm cup of milk are classic bedtime activities because they help the body relax. Meditation and yoga are newcomers to the bedtime scene, but they’ve proven to be incredibly helpful at relieving stress in as little as 10 minutes. Both can be performed from the comfort of your own bed.

Sleep is essential to a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle. As you get the rest you need, you’ll be better able to make choices that empower your health journey.

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