When discussing good health, fitness and weight loss we often look at nutrition and exercise. All too often sleep is left out of the equation. Of course there are a dozen or so more factors that affect a person’s well-being but this article will focus only on sleep. To fully appreciate just how important sleep is to one’s well-being try answering the following question. How long will you survive or be able to function normally physically or mentally if you are totally deprived of A) physical movement B) food C) sleep. The answer might surprise you but it is a good indicator of the importance of sleep compared to physical exercise or even nutrition for your well-being.
For people who are trying to lose weight the quality and quantity of their sleep can have a profound effect on their result. Sleep deprivation causes chaos on the production of hormones that control hunger. That explains why a person who has had “a bad night” is less able to control his appetite the next day plus having the desire to eat less healthy food.
Although individuals differ from one another most adults need an average of 6 to 8 hours quality sleep each night and it is best to have them at the same hours every night. For example, 10.00PM to 6.00AM every night for an individual who thrives on eight hours sleep per night. The hours of the night spent sleeping are also important where “early to bed and early to rise” is preferred over late night and late to rise. 10.00PM is a good time limit to say goodbye to all activities and tuck yourself in bed to be prepared for the next day feeling fresh and rejuvenated. It’s much better if you have the luxury to retire earlier every night.
How would you know what your optimum sleeping hours are? To answer that question, do you realize that we humans are the only creatures that wake up “unnaturally” to the alarm clock? Well not all of us but many do. To find out your best time to sleep and the number of hours required you need to do some personal experimentation without the interference of an alarm clock.
Here are a few tips for a good night’s sleep which you can easily adopt to your lifestyle immediately. Some may require more adjustments to your daily activities compared to others.
Stay tuned to your biological clock. The human body has its own mechanism to detect the time of day or night and adjusts itself to best perform the appropriate tasks at the most suitable time. To be in tune with your biological clock try to do most activities such as your exercise, work, meal and sleep at regular hours every day possible. Since daylight that enters through our eyes is an important trigger to our biological clock, stay away from all electronic gadgets as much as possible after sunset. If it is unavoidable, use night shield mode or filters that block certain light from tricking your body into thinking that it is still daylight. Put away that cell phone at least an hour before bed time
Night is for sleeping. Since night time is meant for sleeping ensure that you sleep in a night time environment i.e. darkness. Sleeping in lighted environment hinders the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone produced by the pineal gland in our brain.
Observe a three hour fasting window. During sleep our body needs energy for repair and rejuvenation. Do not burden it with the task of digestion that uses up a lot of energy. So, no food at least three hours before bed time. If unavoidable, as some people cannot sleep “with an empty stomach” consume only light and easy to digest food like fruits, better still if you blend it into a drink.
Exercise. Exercise during the day promotes good quality sleep. The best time for exercise that promotes quality night sleep is in the morning but since many of us are not able to do that, any other time would be better than no exercise at all. Of course common sense tells us that heavy and strenuous exercise late at night is not the way to go. The danger here is that some people are used to such a routine of exercise at late hours that their body temporarily “adapts” to the situation. Danger lurks because there is no way you can trick nature over a long period of time.
There are many other practices that you can include in your daily activities that will enhance your sleep and improve your well-being. Start with the above and you will sleep your way to good health, God willing.
The writer: Daing Zulkifli aka #grandpacoach, wellness and self – care practitioner began his wellness and self – care journey in 2012 at the age of 54. Prior to that he was part of the Malaysian statistics of grossly overweight individuals. Today he shares his knowledge and experience through his single day workshop Yes2Health as a public program and for companies that want to have a happy, healthy and productive work force.