Sleep your way to fat loss? You’re kidding me right? Nope. Making sure we get enough sleep every night is what I would consider the number 1 out of the 5 things I believe we should prioritize for fat loss. Many people in the health and fitness industry will have at least 3 or 4 of the same top 5 priorities, but maybe do not put them in the same order.
In my blog last week I touched on the 5 things to prioritize for weight loss. The reason I prioritize each of these things in this particular order is because I am talking about sustainable fat loss. Most people will put nutrition and exercise as the first two priorities, but they are the last two on my list. Why are nutrition and exercise last on my list? Because while nutrition and exercise are 2 very important things to prioritize if you are on a diet or any type of weight loss program, the other 3 are more important to get under control first in order to be able to sustain any weight loss.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average healthy adult needs somewhere between 7-9 hours of quality sleep a day and for older adults 7-8. The actual amount of time varies from person to person. Not getting the required number of hours of sleep we each need individually can have all sorts of negative side effects. Not only to weight loss, but to our lives in general.
Our productivity decreases as well as our focus, energy, and concentration. We are less alert and our reflexes slow down. We may experience unexplained mood swings as well as cravings for salty, sweet, fatty foods more often than is usual. Our cortisol (stress hormone) levels increase which means our bodies will hold on to more fat.
All of this I found this out through trial and error. I had no trouble losing the weight with nutrition and exercise. The problem I had was being able to keep it off. When I changed my priorities up a bit, it got waaaaay easier to keep it off. After gradually increasing my sleep to get at least 6.5-7 hours a night along with a 30-40 min nap 2-3 days a week, I lost 2 sizes in my clothes as well as lots of stress, anxiety, fear, wild mood swings and uncontrollable cravings for salty, sweet fatty foods.
So how do we find out exactly how much sleep we need individually? There are a couple of ways. One takes about a week, but is best done when you do not have to work so it is best to do on vacation. It is super easy. Set a bedtime and go to bed at that time every night. Do not set an alarm and wake up on your own. By the end of day 5 or 6, you should have a very good idea of the average amount of hours of sleep you need.
The second method takes longer, but can be a bit challenging if you have small children. You may need to ask for some help from your significant other. It is fairly simple as well. Every night, go to bed when you are tired. Not because you think you need to go to bed. Go when you are tired. Don’t think “lemme do this and then I will go.” GO! When you are sleepy, brush your teeth, and go to bed! Set an alarm for the same time every morning and get up when it goes off. No snooze. Get up at the time you set the alarm. After about 2 weeks you should have a really good idea of how many hours of sleep you need. Again, simple, but not as easy to implement if you have chillens.
Since it is summertime and most of us take at least a week of vacation, take this time to do the one week test if you think the 2 week is going to be more difficult.
Something else I want to touch on, but is super duper important is that we need to shut off all of our electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime! 2 hours is even better!! Seriously y’all, the blue light emitted from our tablets, phones and televisions keeps us from falling asleep.
If for some reason that is just not feasible then please please please purchase some Blue Light Blocking Glasses See, I have mine on 🙂 If you will not do that , then at least download some blue light blockingapps on your phone and devices. I have links for each of these in this blog I wrote about how to work through the loss of sleep at daylight savings time as well as a link to the app brainwaves for the iphone or ipad that can help you get to sleep, or at least help you relax enough to sleep. Go read it and download them. You will be surprised at how much they actually help.
Something else that can help us get to sleep and sleep better as well is to have some carbs a 2-4 hours before going to bed. Having a 1/2 cup rice cooked w/ some added olive oil or a small potato or sweet potato with a bit of butter or something else that is a bit starchy with a little fat added to it with our evening meal can help us sleep. Maybe have a banana with a tbs of nut butter or a cup of cottage cheese (regular or low-fat) with berries for a bedtime snack. Ever wonder why we end up in “food comas” when we sit on the couch watching tv with popcorn and chips and or chips and dips or whatever snack and then sleep like the dead afterwards? Without getting all sciencey on you…basically it is the combination of the carbs and fat together help put us in a relaxed state and help to keep us full for the time we are asleep and to stay asleep at night. But, when we use the carb/fat combo in a smarter way instead of snacking on junk food, we do not run the risk of gaining weight! 🙂
Hopefully we now understand a bit more why I believe that sufficient sleep is my number 1 priority on my list for sustainable fat loss. A domino kind of effect happens to us that affects all the other 4 priorities if we don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep makes us grumpy and moody which is not good for our overall attitude (mindset). Our mindset along with the lack of sleep raises our stress levels on the body which in turn raise our cortisol levels that inhibits fat loss. Lack of sleep triggers cravings and when we are grumpy or moody we are more likely to grab a more unhealthy snack than we would if we were not sleepy and grumpy. The tiredness from lack of sleep as well as the attitude issues also means we have less motivation to get to the gym for our exercise. Geesh, all that from just not sleeping enough! and this is just the tip of the iceberg yall!
Next week I will talk about the number 2 priority which is mindset. You would be amazed if you knew that how we think has so much to do with sustainable weight loss.
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