How did you sleep last night? A question that is more often than not answered with “not that great”, or “not as long as I should have”. People underestimate the value of getting a good night’s sleep to their weight loss goals, yet alone their health.

If you’re feeling sleepy at work, you may be tempted to reach for a cup of coffee and a doughnut or sugary treat for a quick shot of energy. Later you may skip the gym, too tired to get your workout in.

Then, you pick up takeout on your way home to your family, also known as “no time to cook” phenomenon. When you finally find yourself back in your bed, you are too wound up to sleep. It’s a vicious cycle, and eventually this sleep deprivation can sabotage your waistline and your health.

It starts out innocently enough. When you have sleep deprivation and are running on low energy, you automatically go for comfort foods. The immediate result? You may be able to fight off sleepiness. The ultimate result? Unwanted pounds as poor food choices coupled with lack of exercise set the stage for weight gain and further sleep loss.

Let me clear something up first, it’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight. It’s more the consequences of being sleep-deprived. This means that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or not enough good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly.

Cutting back your calories? Studies show that a reduction of sleep by 3 hours is associated with more weight loss come from muscle rather than fat compared to well-rested people. Not only is it linked to our hunger or activity level, but the bodily functions and hormonal responses leading to a higher body fat percentage.

Not interested in weight loss? This applies to you too! Sleep appears to be somewhat associated with hormone levels that are responsible for building lean and toned physique. Yep, slacking on getting those precious hours are going to greatly impact your gains in the gym.

Now we know how important getting good quality sleep is to reaching your goals regardless of what they are, how do we fix it you ask? Well here are some top tips to get you sleeping better by tonight:

1. Stick to a sleep schedule – Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This applies to weekends, holidays and days off too. Being consistent creates a sleep-wake cycle and helps you ultimately sleep better at night. If you don’t fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing. Go back to bed when you’re tired, don’t stress it!

2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink – Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed as your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed. Nothing worse than those middle-of-the-night trips to the washrooms.

3. Create a bedtime ritual – Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music. Choose a ritual that doesn’t involve bright screens of any kind as they will make you more awake even if you don’t realize it. Make bedtime your time.

4. Get comfortable – Create a space that is perfect for sleeping, meaning keeping it cool, dark, and quiet, with optimal bedding that includes a comfy pillow and mattress that is right for your body.

5. Limit naps – Yes, that afternoon or noontime nap. We all love them, but long daytime naps can screw with nighttime sleep. If you absolutely have to nap, limit yourself to maximum of 30 minutes and make it during the midmorning or midafternoon.

6. Include physical activity in your daily routine – Activity promotes better quality overall sleep from falling asleep to staying asleep. Make sure you don’t exercise too close to bedtime however, as this will spike those happy hormones keeping you wired.

7. Manage stress – Probably the hardest thing to do out of this entire list. When you have too much to think about or do your sleep is likely to suffer. Consider healthy ways to manage stress like getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Before bed, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.

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By: Alysha Coughler, Registered Dietitian and BMBB Coach