It’s a warm sunny day here on Long Island, and I write this to you from my parents’ home. Every Tuesday and Friday, I visit my hometown of Port Washington, and work with my grandmother on rehab from hip replacement surgery last summer, and my dad on improving his strength, tone and overall cardiovascular health.
With my Mom and Dad out of the country on vacation, I’ve still been helping out with my grandma, as well as checking in on my parents’ three dogs when I’m in the area…
Anyhow, today I want to talk about something that you don’t often hear much of in relation to weight loss. We can talk about nutrition and working out until the cows come home, but if you don’t get enough of THIS, then it’s very likely you will NOT reach your weight loss goals!
What am I referring to? SLEEP!
Sleep is vitally important for your weight loss journey, as well as just for optimal health. In this day and age of constant distractions, as well as a myriad of work and family-related responsibilities, we tend to forego sleep in exchange for getting shit done.
Quips like ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead!,’ and ‘Sleep faster!’ are commonly heard in our society. Here in the States, particularly in places like where I live (New York), the work mentality is ‘Hustle, hustle, hustle, grind, grind, grind!,’ and making every second count 24/7/365.
Not to demean the folks who subscribe to this method of thinking, but I’ve always been a ‘Work smarter, not harder’ type of guy! If you have a newborn at home that wakes up during the night, that’s one thing, but for the vast majority of us, this is NOT the case!! We have to treat sleep like an important business meeting or event, and put ourselves in the best possible position to succeed with this.
A myriad of studies show that lack of sleep raises the chances of your becoming obese, as your metabolism slows, and both your cravings and hunger for sugary foods escalates! This is just your body’s mechanism of keeping your brain powered so you can function as optimally as you can – But without an adequate amount of sleep, optimal function ain’t really happening!
If there were an area of my health that I’ve struggled with throughout my life above all else, it would certainly be sleep! I’ve struggled with anxiety for much of my life, and as I mentioned yesterday, if I have to be up early for something, I’m often up AT LEAST an hour before my alarm is set to go off!! If something worrisome is going on in my life, and it’s on my mind preceding when I’m supposed to be in bed, I can toss and turn for much of the night.
Thankfully, after learning how vital sleep is to not only staying fit but in staying healthy, I’ve found a handful of hacks that have really helped to improve the quality of my sleep each and every night:
1) I meditate. This may seem hippy-dippy, but trust me, it works! There are some great guided meditation apps like Calm and Headspace, where for a nominal annual cost, you’ll get daily guided meditations that will walk you through how to breathe and what to do. Some of these apps even have specific meditations based on what’s causing you to stress, to worry and to lose focus in your life.
Meditation helps you learn how to calm your mind, and how to be able to stop a negative thought in its tracks before it completely consumes you. The second I started making this an almost daily ritual, the better I was able to manage my stress, and thus, not have my mind race when I got to sleep at night.
2) Blackout Curtains. I am NOT a sound sleeper, so if I hear a pin drop, or a car drives by my bedroom window with its headlights illuminating the room, the chances of me waking up are extremely high! Once my girlfriend and I invested in blackout curtains, we could see the difference in both getting to and staying asleep IMMEDIATELY!! Highly recommended if you don’t already have them…
3) A Sound Machine. For under $30, we got a sound machine from the Target up the road, and we can’t fall asleep without it! The one we have has half a dozen different sounds, so whether you want to hear waves crashing in the ocean, or a summer night, or a stream flowing, you can! We go with the stream, as the others seem to be too variable in terms of the crescendos and lowering of noises. I tried a White Noise Machine in the past, but after watching a few too many horror flicks, I think I’ll stick with the stream flowing… Don’t want to be communicating with the dead or anything like that!
4) Sleep in 90 Minute Intervals. Studies have shown that in order to complete a full REM cycle (the most restorative sleep cycle you can enter), you have to be asleep for roughly 90 minutes. The bare MINIMUM you should sleep is six hours, with 7.5 and nine hours being your ideal sleep durations. This may take some trial-and-error… For me, I do best when I get nine, but there are plenty of people who prefer 7.5! Try each duration a couple of times over the next week, and see which one has you waking up feeling more refreshed.
5) Be in bed 30 minutes BEFORE you want to fall asleep! It takes the average person about 20 minutes to fall asleep, so this will give you a 10 minute buffer if you’d like to read a little before assuming the position 😉
Hope you found this helpful, and hope you enjoy your weekend! I get to shoot guns at a range tomorrow for the first time in my life, so, ‘Murica!!
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