Most people understand the key to healthy weight loss to be a combination of eating well and exercising regularly. But what you may not know is that if you really want to lose weight, it's just as important to consider a third factor — a good night's sleep.
It may seem strange, but study after study has shown that weight loss is directly linked to sleeping well. A study carried out over six years by the Eastern Ontario Research Institute and Laval University in Quebec found that people who changed from having less than six hours of sleep a night to between seven and eight hours a night put on 2.4kg less weight than those who didn't change their sleeping habits.
Research has offered a number of reasons that our sleeping habits might affect our weight. One is the impact of a poor night's sleep on diet and exercise. For example, it's common for people to try to make up for not sleeping well by eating and drinking things that contain a lot of sugar to boost their energy. It's also been found that people crave less healthy foods and have bigger appetites when they have not slept well than when they have, because lack of sleep leads to a rise in the hormones that cause hunger. When we feel tired, we may also be less motivated to exercise.
Of course, sleeping well has other benefits as well, including making us more alert, boosting our productivity, and improving our overall mood.
Here are some ways that you can sleep better and increase your wellbeing:
- Cut the coffee! It can take the body hours to process caffeinated drinks, so it's a good idea to limit them throughout the day, and definitely avoid drinking them near bedtime. Also avoid other energy boosting foods right before you sleep, such as chocolate.
- Make sure that each night you go to bed at around the same time. This is the best way to set your body clock so that it's regular and you don't find yourself waking up during the night.
- Distractions such as the television and computer don't help, so it's better to avoid having them in the bedroom. If you do, turn them off well before you go to sleep so that you can wind down, and if you're feeling restless, relax by reading a book or writing your thoughts down instead.
- Ensure that your sleeping environment is as comfortable for you as it can be! This means limiting the amount of light and noise that can get in, and making sure that your bed and mattress are supportive. If you're sleeping badly and you're not sure why, it could be that your mattress has worn out. If you'd like to know more about how to tell when a mattress is past its best or what you should look for when you replace it, there is lots of information on our site, and our knowledgable staff will be happy to help.