6 Doctor-Approved Strategies To Get More Sleep
January 15, 2016
re you feeling dog tired? Here’s why getting enough sleep is crucial to your health — and how to make sure you squeeze in more shut-eye…
January is here, which means that there’s a lot of people hoping to make good on their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get in shape. We’re constantly told that the best way to lose weight is to move more, eat less and eat better. And while that is all certainly very true, there’s always one piece of the equation that’s left out: sleep.
Most of us struggle with finding enough time to take care of our families and get our work done. Fitting in a SoulCycle ride can seem impossible, yet we somehow make it a priority to get to class. There never seems to be enough time in the day and, well, sleep just gets put on the back burner.
SoulCycle is a tough and rewarding workout, but if you’re chronically sleep-deprived you’re not getting the most out of your ride. Although it can be a challenge to get a good night of sleep every night, it’s important to try and get enough sleep whenever possible and not let it fall to the back burner.
While weight loss is a result of increased calorie burn, a solid night of sleep — every night — can enhance these results. Sleep deprivation throws our appetite signaling hormones out of whack. When we sleep less, we have an increase in ghrelin (the hormone that makes us hungry) and a decrease in leptin (which tells us we’re full). As a result, we eat more because we don’t have a strong signal to stop. Good sleep helps to keep these hunger signals in check, leading to an easier time sticking with a diet and – when combined with exercise – a greater ability to lose weight and keep it off.
Sleep is crucial for recovery from tough workouts. During the deeper stages of sleep, HGH (Human Growth Hormone) is naturally released. HGH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland and released into the bloodstream. It aids in repairing muscle, strengthening bones, and converting fat to fuel. Less sleep leads to reduced HGH levels, impacting the speed from which you recover from a tough ride. In addition, sleep deprivation also leads to increased levels of cortisol (a hormone released while under stress). More cortisol also contributes to slower recovery times.
So now that you know why sleep is key to getting the most out of your ride, here’s a few tips to help get your sleep back on track:
Figure out, earlier in the day, what is a “must do” before bedtime and what is a “would like to do.” For example, it might be worth getting 15 minutes extra sleep that night and just do the dishes the next day.
2. Try to get enough sleep on a regular basis.
I realize that it is not always possible to do, but definitely keep it as a goal. The best way to figure out your optimal sleep need is to go to bed and not set the alarm for a few days (ideally with five or more days where you don’t need to wake up early). On days four and five, you can start to see how much sleep you regularly require. Most people fall within a range of 6-9 hours a night, though there is individual variation.
3. Limit alcohol, heavy meals, and exercise (tough, I know!) within three hours of bedtime.
4. Turn off all screens (TV, iPad, computer, etc.) within one hour of bedtime and wind down with something calm and relaxing (maybe even incorporate some gentle stretching and/or deep breathing exercises to help with stress).
5. Avoid caffeine within six to eight hours of bedtime.
6. If you are unable to sleep well on a regular basis, consider talking with your doctor — there are many effective treatments (especially ones that don’t require any medication) available!
Shelby Harris (above) is a sleep psychologist in private practice in Westchester and at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. She’s also a new mom and an avid SoulCyclist!
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