Two of the key components to lasting fat loss, outside of nutrition and exercise, are sleep and stress management. Even if you are doing everything right as far as nutrition and exercise, poor management of sleep and stress can derail your fat loss efforts.
To address the issue of sleep management, I’d like for you to do a sleep audit and share it in response. This is where you review your sleep environment and habits before bed.
Even if you aren’t getting as much sleep as you would like, it’s possible that a few minor changes can significantly improve your sleep quality.
Some things to look at would be:
- Are you using electronics right before bed? I ask because the blue light that they emit can make it take longer for you to fall asleep. Check out this study: Blue Light Study. I personally use an app on my laptop called f.lux which changes the color of the light from the computer based on time of day, so that there is less of an impact on your sleep. For Android phones, there is an app called Twilight that works much the same as f.lux. Careful, it may drain your battery! For iOS devices, you would need to buy a physical screen that filters the blue light. I recently purchased one for my phone for around $10 on Amazon. This can also apply to TV watching, so you may want to give yourself at least 30 minutes of electronics and TV free time before bed.
- Is your bedroom the perfect environment for sleep? Is your bedroom as dark as it could be? If not, I’d ask you to consider how you could make it darker. Some things that you could try are blackout shades, tape over bright indicator lights on electronics, or even wear a sleep mask. Similarly, noise pollution can also disrupt your sleep. You can try earplugs, a white noise generator, or listening to soothing music to drown out the disruptions. Also, you can try reducing the temperature in your bedroom by about 5-10 degrees below what it would normally be during normal waking hours. This is going to vary person to person. Lastly, removing unnecessary clutter to make the bedroom a more restful and relaxing place. This could mean removing the TV, and/or computer, as well as changing the color of the room to be more soothing. I am considering painting my bedroom walls from white to gray or gray-blue.
- Do you sometimes lay in bed thinking about things? Try keeping a notepad and pen next to your bed so that if your brain is thinking about something while you are trying to sleep, you can try to get into the habit of writing it down so that you can get it out of your mind.
- Do you read before bed? I find that reading a physical book (not an e-book) helps me to relax and get to sleep faster. There is also some research that suggests that the scent of physical books helps with memory and retention of what is being read. If you don’t read before bed, it may be worth trying!
- What did you eat before bed? Some carbs before bed usually help most people get to sleep easier, and it’s why you are generally more tired after a big meal on holidays (other than the large amount of calories in a single meal). This is also a case where waiting until before bed to get all of your protein in is not a great idea as digesting protein takes more energy than the other macro-nutrients, and this can possibly keep you up or prevent you from falling asleep.
- Do you have consistent bed times? Our bodies like sameness and routine. An example of this is how our body regulates meal timing through the hormone ghrelin. We get hungry about the same time each day. The same goes for sleep. If you stay up late, and wake up tired, you are creating a sleep deficit that sleeping in on the weekend cannot ever fully erase. This is why you sometimes have a sleep hangover on the weekend (assuming it isn’t a real hangover). I’ve found that going to bed around the same time every day (with exceptions for social obligations) has vastly improved my sleep.
- Do you drink lots of coffee or other caffeinated beverages? Consider cutting back on your caffeine intake. There is no need to cut out coffee or caffeine entirely, but setting a hard cut off point (something like 11am) in your day may help you get to sleep better and faster at night.
- Lastly, you may want to consider supplementing melatonin after consulting with your doctor. Melatonin is the hormone that your brain produces that helps you get to and stay asleep. Please recall that more does not always mean better. Most people report better sleep results with LESS supplementary melatonin (1mg or less). It is non habit forming and may be worth your while to look into if your doctor approves.
Please let me know if any of these have helped you!
For additional information, please check out Healthy Sleep.