Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall Back...to sleep!


The time change this past weekend granted many people the opportunity to snatch an extra, much needed hour of sleep. If that extra hour left you feeling more awake and refreshed, you may not be getting enough sleep. Research has shown that people who do not get enough sleep have a harder time maintaining a healthy weight than those who get at least 7.5 hours a night. Even mild sleep deprivation can interfere with healthy habits and metabolism and cause weight gain.

During the day, people who are chronically tired have been shown to reach for sugary, high calorie snacks and caffeine to boost energy throughout the day. While this may work in the short term, it often results in an energy crash several hours later that leads to more caffeine and snacks. Think about the 3 p.m. trip to the vending machine for a soda and a candy bar to get through the afternoon.

In addition, people who are sleep deprived often lack the energy or motivation to work exercise into their schedules. If you are chronically sleepy, when given the choice to head home to the sofa or head to the gym, the sofa will win more often than not!

This combination of high calorie snacks and decreased exercise can contribute to excess weight gain. In addition, getting too little sleep can interfere with certain hormones responsible for regulating appetite and metabolism, which only increases weight gain.

If you find yourself in the sleep deprived category, there are several things you can do to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.
  • Stay away from caffeine after 2 p.m. to help you fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer.
  • Avoid television and computer screens immediately before bedtime. The light from the screen can interfere with your body's internal clock.
  • Turn cell phones off or on silent to minimize interruptions after you have already fallen asleep.
  • Avoid large, rich meals immediately before bedtime to prevent heart burn, which can make falling asleep difficult.
  • Regular exercise can improve sleep quality. 30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times per week is all it takes!

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