According to a 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll, 57% of women compared to 51% of men experience insomnia at least 3 out of 7 nights a week. From demanding careers, kids, family and social events, to anxiety, depression, chronic pain and hormonal fluctuations, women find it increasingly difficult to get the recommended 7 ½- 8 hours of sleep a night. While the poll suggests women are getting a mere average of 6 ½ hours a night, I know many of my women clients and friends are getting even less than average, often reporting a mere 5-6 hours of non-restful, interrupted sleep.
Chronic lack of sleep over time can eventually lead to mood disorders, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and early mortality.
Why does lack of sleep cause weight gain?
While the obvious benefits of sleep are well documented and personally experienced, such as improved memory, more energy, and sharper concentration, many women don’t realize that improving the quality and length of their sleep can also impact their ability to maintain a healthy weight and maybe even help them lose weight.
When you don’t sleep well, it
Our habits during the day determine how well we sleep at night and how efficiently we lose weight. Here are my favorite strategies to help you have a more restful night’s sleep, so you can have the energy you need to fuel your day and your workouts and keep your hormones and maintain your weight.
Tips to better sleep:
1. Be aware of your stress: High amounts of daily stress can affect the
The first step in stress management is simply to become aware of your stress level throughout the day. If you have a habit of going full speed ahead all day long without realizing your teeth are clenched, your shoulders are tense and you’re holding your breath, take a step back. A five-minute breath break can do wonders for calming down a racing mind and reducing the impact of stress on your body. Allow your breath to rise and fall from your belly and slowly begin to increase the length of your exhales. Practice this anytime you notice you’re not breathing to reset your internal response to stress.
2. Change your
3. Eat well to sleep well: A balanced diet, with a reasonable
4. Exercise: In the beginning, when you are feeling sleep-deprived and low on energy, it can feel impossible to exercise during the day. But even 15-20 minutes of moderate exercise can help you decrease harmful stress hormones, reduce muscle tension and help you feel sleepy when it’s time to turn in. Do what you love
5. Reduce caffeine: Caffeine remains in your system for up to eight hours. While it may be tempting to brew that extra cup of coffee to help you get through that afternoon slump, consider how this may be affecting your sleep at night. Instead, take a quick, brisk walk, close your eyes and take several deep breaths, or eat a high protein snack with a little bit of fruit to maintain blood-sugar levels and boost your energy throughout the day.
6. Let go of the booze: I know this is a hard one to grasp. Many women struggling with insomnia often rely on a couple of glasses of wine
7. Create a bedtime ritual: Turn off the computer, turn down the lights, light some candles, turn on some soothing music or simply enjoy the silence. Decrease the amount of mental and visual stimulation at night, and instead create a calming ritual to prepare your body and mind for a healthy night’s sleep. Commit to the same bedtime every night and the same waking hour in the morning. Gentle stretching or Yoga, prayer or mindfulness meditation, channeling your thoughts and tomorrow’s to-do list, and soaking in a warm Epsom Salts bath with essential oils like lavender or rose, are some simple yet effective soul-soothing habits to cultivate at night.
8. Practice progressive relaxation: Once you are lying in bed, then what? Maybe you feel a little restless and notice some tension left in your body. A simple progressive relaxation technique can help you let go and fall into deep sleep. Beginning with your feet, breathe deeply into your belly as you tense and tighten your muscles, then exhale smoothly and slowly as you soften and release your muscles. Move through each part of the body, taking as much time as you like, until you reach your face. To finish, tense your entire body from head to toes and with a long exhale let it all go.
9. Supplemental sleep-aids: Sometimes it takes a little extra help to get us through the night. Supplements such as magnesium, melatonin, GABA and L- Tryptophan can be helpful when you are trying to break the cycle of insomnia. Magnesium is a mineral that is a powerful muscle and nervous system relaxer. A deficiency in this mineral can lead to restless sleep, muscle tension, heart palpitations and anxiety. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep cycles. Taken in small amounts, it can help some women fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps stop brain over-activity, reduces anxiety and induces good quality of sleep without creating sleepiness during the day. L-Tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin when it reaches the brain. Serotonin regulates mood, appetite and sleep. Low levels of serotonin can cause depression. Educate yourself and ask your doctor or alternative health care practitioner before taking any supplement you are unfamiliar with.
10. Be patient: As with starting anything new, it takes practice. Be patient with yourself as you let go of old habits that do not serve your intention to have a restful night’s sleep and replace them with new healthy, habits. It takes time to rewire the brain and train the body. Consistency will be its own reward when you reach your weight-loss goals without sacrificing sleep. Forgive yourself for restless nights and don’t give up.