Just One more click along your episodic binge of that new show means one less hour of sleep, but that’s nothing a cup of coffee can’t fix tomorrow, right? Not quite. Over time, a deficit of deep sleep could mean way more than just a bit of grogginess — think weight gain, mood disorders and even illness. Functional medicine pro, Dr. Mark Hyman, is getting real with us about the importance of sleep, and is sharing twelve simple tips on how to get better sleep — starting now…
A few years ago, Jim came to my office desperate for help. He’d gained 140 pounds over three years, ballooning up from a slim 186 pounds to a whopping 320 pounds. But he wasn’t eating more than most people. Instead, some very specific lifestyle changes created his weight gain.
Jim had gotten divorced, remarried, had two children, lost his mother, and almost lost his brother! Despite all that, Jim used to be in shape: He worked out, played football and ate well.
Then his schedule changed. He began working the night shift at his security job. He worked all night and took care of his daughter during the day while his wife was at work. That left Jim no time for exercise and only about four hours for sleep.
To make matters worse, he craved sugar and carbohydrates and ate one huge meal of pasta, rice and bread before going to work each night to give him energy.
Like so many Americans, Jim became a victim of a culture that prides itself on productivity, where sleep is simply a nuisance that gets in the way of work, family, TV, the Internet, email and exercise.We make up for this lack of sleep by filling our tanks with sugar, refined carbs, caffeine and other stimulants we hope will give us more energy but do just the opposite.
The main thing in Jim’s life that changed before his weight gain was his sleep schedule. That’s no coincidence. Research links even one partial night’s sleep deprivation to insulin resistance in otherwise healthy folks, paving the way for Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
As this and other studies show, hormones underlie these problems. Your body has a finely tuned appetite control system governed by certain hormones that are affected by sleep. Among them include your hunger hormones ghrelin (that makes you feel hungry), cortisol (your stress hormone that stores fat) and leptin (that makes you feel full). Low-quality sleep can knock these and other fat-regulating hormones out of balance.
So you stay hungry and start craving high-calorie, high-carbohydrate foods. After many nights of sleep deprivation while working in the emergency room, I can tell you that this is true!
A Gallup poll showed 40 percent or Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. It isn’t just quantity; our quality of sleep is also suffering. Numerous issues can interfere with sleep and some patients require a sleep specialist who can (through trial-and-error sometimes) find what might cause sleep disturbances.
Yet for most people, I’ve found these 12 strategies can help restore seven to nine hours of quality sleep. The difference in their energy levels, weight loss and overall health is (pun fully intended) night and day different.
How to Get Better Sleep Nightly
Set the right temp. Make the room a comfortable temperature for sleep (not too hot or cold).
Soak the day away. Take a hot bath at night for 20 minutes. Add 2 cups of Epsom salt and 10 drops of lavender essential oil to the bathwater.
Calm your system. Take 200 to 400 mg of magnesium citrate or glycinate before bed, which relaxes the nervous system and muscles.
Supplement thoughtfully. Other supplements and herbs to get sufficient shuteye include calcium, L-theanine (an amino acid from green tea), GABA, 5-HTP, melatonin, valerian, passionflower and magnolia.
Kill the coffee. Avoid or minimize substances that affect sleep, like caffeine, sugar and alcohol.
Unplug. Avoid any stimulating activities for two hours before bed such as watching TV, using the Internet and answering emails.
Set a bedtime (and a rise time). Go to bed (preferably before 10 or 11 p.m.) and wake up at the same time every day.
Sweat it out. Exercise daily for 30 minutes (but not three hours before bed, which can affect sleep).
Designate a role. Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
Cut the lights. Keep your bedroom very dark or use eyeshades.
Keep it quiet. Block out sound if you have a noisy environment by using earplugs (soft silicone ones work the best).
Investigate the problem. If you still have trouble sleeping, get checked out for other problems that can interfere with sleep, including food sensitivities, thyroid problems, menopause, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heavy metal toxicity, stress and depression.