When it comes to healthy weight loss, sleep is often one of most overlooked factors. Quality of sleep is KEY to hormone balance and thus, healthy weight loss.
My husband often teases me about my early bedtime and how quickly I fall asleep. But it wasn’t always that way.
I used to stay up late, and once in bed, could not shut my mind off. I would lay there, restlessly reviewing my day and trying to solve potential problems of tomorrow. I was a terrible workaholic and so would get up early to try and catch up from the previous day- basically burning the candle at both ends. It was an endless cycle.
I was exhausted and completely WRECKED with cravings of carbs, sweets, and coffee.
This is where my research began.
I want to share with you what I have learned in my own experience and what has worked well for me.
But first, it’s important to understand the definition of Circadian rhythm. You may have heard of it but may not understand the full importance of it in our overall health and well-being.
Circa = about and Dia = day.
The hypothalamus (a portion of the brain) is designed to control circadian rhythm – also known as sleep/wake cycles. Our eyes perceive light and darkness, which signals the brain to sleep or wake. Naturally, this affects. energy levels and has an impact on the chemistry of our body. When we are awake long into the night, or asleep during the day, it affects our physical and mental energy. On a chemical level, it affects hormones such as cortisol – the “flight or fight” adrenal hormone.
In addition, when we are tired, our brain produces more ghrelin, which triggers hunger. But not just any hunger… salty, sugary, carbs. Ever notice that when you’re tired, you crave that kind of junk? Yep! Tired brain.
Tired brain + poor food choices = weight gain
Here are some of my favorite ways to help maintain a healthy sleep life:
1. Set a regular bedtime/wake time. The closer to the natural schedule of sunrise and sunset, the better. Keep your schedule EVEN ON THE WEEKEND.
2. Turn off electronics, ideally, 90 minutes before you hit the sack (I’m still working on this one). The blue light emitted from TV screens, computers and mobile devices will prevent levels of melatonin (the hormone that helps you fall asleep) from increasing and thus keeps your brain stimulated and awake. Try reading a fiction novel instead.
3. Daily exercise and stress-relieving activities will help you relax and fall asleep easier. When your body is tired and your mind is at rest, you will sleep much more soundly. I love the Calm app for relaxation. You can listen to a bedtime story or hypnotic sounds of nature.
4. Set your alarm according to your circadian rhythm. We typically experience several 90-minute sleep cycles per night, moving from awake to REM, to awake. It’s very important to wake up at the top of a sleep cycle, rather than in the middle of REM sleep. Waking up in the middle of deep sleep will leave you feeling groggy, regardless of how long you slept.
5. DON’T HIT THE SNOOZE! Unless you plan to sleep for another 90-minute cycle, just get out of bed. It’s actually better to sleep for 7.5 hours, than 8. I use the Sleep Cycle app every night to help me with this. It calculates the number of 90-minute cycles from when I turn it on and wakes me within a 30-minute window as it detects me getting restless and coming out of REM sleep.
I always recommend food first, but I have found that magnesium supplements also work well for me. Food sources include pumpkin seeds, cocoa, dark leafy greens, almonds, molasses, many beans, buckwheat, amaranth, brazil nuts, and many herbs/spices.
Magnesium is a mineral used in hundreds of reactions in the body and is well supported in research to promote sleep and relaxation. Epsom salt in baths or topical magnesium oil are also great sources absorbed through the skin.
Not all Magnesium supplements are the same
I use and recommend Magnesium Glycinate. It is well-absorbed in the gut and bloodstream. Glycine and magnesium both have calming effects that make it a great evening supplement to support relaxation and deep sleep. There are rarely digestive side effects. I use Pure Encapsulations by Klaire Labs
Magnesium Citrate includes citric acid and will help relax body and bowels. This could be helpful if you suffer with constipation. Warning: start with a small dose until you know how it will affect your digestive system. I recommend Pure Encapsulations by Klaire Labs as well as Natural Calm. Natural calm is a powder form you can mix in a glass of water before bedtime.
Topical magnesium is great for sore, achy muscles as it’s easily absorbed through the skin. My favorite brand is EASE by Activation.
There’s so much more I could share with you on this subject, but for now, here’s a couple of great resources you may use for your own research:
Learn more about sleep and circadian rhythm here: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/what-circadian-rhythm
My favorite book on the subject:
Sleep Smarter, 21 Essential Strategies to sleep your way to a better body, better health, and bigger success, Shawn Stevenson