Sleep is one of the best things you can do from a self-care perspective. Unfortunately, because of all the things we women do and the busy lifestyles we lead, sleep is also one of the things we tend to neglect.
You’ve probably heard the recommendation: eight hours of shut-eye is the right amount of sleep you should get each night – preferably more.
But a good number of women are falling far short of this. And it’s having a massive impact on almost every aspect of our wellbeing, from our weight to our health.
Even if you live healthily in every other area of your life, unfortunately, it’s not enough to cancel out the damaging effects of poor sleep habits.
Here’s a look at why getting enough sleep is so crucial for your health and well-being, and why diet alone can’t undo the effects of not sleeping well.
Sleep Duration vs. Sleep Quality
Sleep duration is the number of hours you get while sleep quality refers to how well we sleep.
If you get eight hours of sleep daily, you’re golden, right? Well, not quite. While sleep duration plays a significant role, it alone isn’t the whole solution. You also need to strive for good sleep quality.
Sleep quality is an entirely different prospect to how long we sleep. It’s relatively easy to tell how long you sleep. But it’s more challenging to determine how well you sleep.
Poor sleep quality means you’re not sleeping in line with your circadian rhythm or going through all the essential sleep phases (particularly with REM sleep).
Here are two tell-tale signs that your sleep quality isn’t as good as it could be:
1. Waking up during the night
This can be caused by waking up to go to the bathroom, being woken up by a loud noise, or sleeping next to a heavy snorer.
2. Not waking up naturally
You experience this if most mornings you need an alarm abruptly wake you up.
How Sleep Affects Health
What exactly does your body experience when you don’t get enough sleep? Lack of sleep affects pretty much everything, and poor sleep patterns can have severe effects on your health.
1. Lower immunity
Do you seem to catch every cough, cold or bug going around? One culprit could be your sleep habits. Researchers in one study deliberately exposed people to the common cold virus to see how likely they were to develop a cold.
The participants who slept for less than 7 hours per night had lower immunity and were almost three times more likely to be impacted. Even a small sleep debt has been linked to lower immunity.
2. Increased risk of stroke and heart disease
Studies that looked at the link between developing heart disease and strong and lack of sleep showed an alarming connection. When you get less than seven to eight hours of sleep per night, you increase your chances of having a stroke or developing Coronary Heart Disease – and you can die from it.
3. Increased risk of diabetes
A sleep deficit can pave the way for developing Type 2 diabetes. One study found just a week of not sleeping well reduced insulin sensitivity and raised concerns about whether consistently getting inadequate quality sleep might open the door to developing health issues linked to insulin resistance.
4. Increased inflammation
Studies have linked various health problems to Inflammation and sleep loss can potentially increase inflammation.
Sleep Affects Cognition
You’ve likely read that you can boost your brain health by eating the right foods. But did you know it’s not just diet that can affect your memory and concentration?
In fact, sleep plays a large role in brain performance. Studies show lack of sleep impairs memory and concentration. One study suggested that even moderate sleep issues can cause as much damage as alcohol can in affecting cognition!
The deeper stages of sleep, in particular, are vital to memory, learning, clear thinking, and focus. Your brain does a good amount of its mental ‘sorting’ during these sleep stages. In this phase, it works to filter out information that you don’t need at present.
And while it doesn’t sound like a lot at first, it all adds up to better performance and cognition.
Your brain isn’t working up to par which makes it harder for you to stay strong.
Sleep Affects Physical Performance
Exercise is a critical factor if you want to avoid weight gain. To get the most out of any form of exercise you do, you want your physical performance to be at its best.
But when you don’t get good sleep, your physical performance is negatively affected. You may have decreased energy levels and stamina, and you don’t get as good of a workout.
You may find yourself tiring more quickly or not able to work as hard as you usually would.
Related Article: 8 Week Workout Plan Of Quick Exercises To Get Fit
Sleep Affects Weight Gain
You want to stay a healthy weight, right? Then take the time now to learn how to get better sleep to avoid weight gain.
If you don’t sleep well, it’s a lot harder to maintain a healthy weight. The main problem? It sends your metabolism a little crazy and can ruin your good intentions for eating well.
Poor sleep both in duration and quality has a considerable effect on hormones, including leptin and ghrelin, both of which affect appetite. Leptin works to keep your appetite in check. Ghrelin does the opposite.
Ideally, you want to have less ghrelin and more leptin in your body, however not getting enough sleep throws this balance off and effectively switches these hormones around. As a result, even when you’re technically full, you’re more likely to overeat.
Also, it becomes harder to shift stubborn belly fat, as sleep deprivation encourages fat to build up in this area our your body.
Related Article: Losing Weight After 30 Doesn’t Have To Be Hard
Learn How To Get Better Sleep
When it comes to sleep and your weight, upping your sleep duration to seven to eight hours a night certainly helps. But make sure to also focus on getting quality sleep.
Here are some tips you can follow to get better sleep to avoid weight gain.
Tip #1 – Eat Foods To Help You Sleep
There are some foods that when eaten before bed can potentially enhance your sleep quality. These include teas (chamomile tea and passionflower tea, nuts (almonds and walnuts), proteins (turkey and fatty fish), and fruits (bananas and kiwi).
Tip #2 – Make Your Room Dark
At bedtime, minimize the amount of light in your room. Pitch black is best, so get as close to it as possible. Doing so will support your circadian rhythm.
Try using room darkening shades or curtains.
Another option is to wear an eye mask to block out light.
Tip #3 – Switch Off Electronics
This tip can be hard to do. So many of us are on a device from the moment we wake in the morning until the moment our eyes close at night. You may even find you’ll have to go through a device detox to follow this tip, but it’s important to follow it.
At least one hour before bed, switch off your electronic devices (even your phone!). You want to reduce the amount of blue light you’re exposed to just before bedtime, so you need to avoid the blue light your electronics emit.
This blue light makes it harder for your body to produce enough of the sleep hormone, melatonin, to help you sleep well.
On those nights when you have a work deadline to meet and a project you have to finish and you have to use a device, consider wearing glasses that minimize the effects of blue light.
Tip #4 – Set A Bedtime Routine
Every night, go to bed at the same time and every morning, get up at the same time. Follow this on weekends, too.
Create a soothing bedtime routine that gets your body and your mind ready for bed. Try relaxation methods like meditation, focused breathing, light stretching, or other natural ways to induce restful sleep.
If you haven’t seen sleep as a critical part of your wellness routine, it’s time to change your mindset! Incorporate these tips on how to get better sleep to avoid weight gain, and you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time.
What About You?
What’s your sleep quality like? Comment below. I’d love to know how well you sleep and what you plan to do to get better sleep to avoid weight gain.
Do you have a favorite method to sleep better? Share it with us below.