Have you ever noticed uncontrollable food cravings and hunger when you’ve been deprived of a good night’s sleep?

Lack of sleep can really jeopardise your weight loss efforts, here are a few tips that may help.

16 ways to help if you can’t sleep

  • Have your last meal at least 3 hours before you go to bed
  • If you find yourself having to get up to go to the bathroom in the night try not drinking for 2-3 hours before your bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol completely is preferable, if you do happen to indulge have it at least three hours before you want to sleep
  • Avoid caffeine; remember caffeine is also in tea, green tea etc. Some people are more sensitive then others, if you feel you can’t sleep due to caffeine sensitivity then stop drinking anything containing caffeine in the early afternoon, or at least 6 hours before you go to bed.
  • Get into a routine, your body is happiest when it is in a consistent schedule of going to bed at the same time and awakening at the same time (even on weekends) Really it is preferable to be in bed by 10pm and certainly asleep before 11pm to give your body a chance to release toxins as well as cleanse and repair.

If you can’t sleep because you’re stressed

  • Keep a pad by your bed and dump down everything that’s troubling you or that you feel you need to do. This is a way of clearing the mind so it can rest too
  • Try listening to relaxation or guided imagery CD.s to lure you into a deep sleep
  • Try taking a hot bath to relax you before you go to bed

You can’t sleep unless your bedroom is a haven for rest

  • Leave your bed for sleeping, watching T.V, and working on the lap top etc it creates too much stimulation for the brain. If you can do those activities in a separate room. Or at least turn everything off in plenty of time before you want to sleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom is not too hot and not too cold around 60-70 degrees F/15.5-21 degrees Celsius
  • Have a completely dark room to sleep in or use an eye mask
  • Have a well ventilated room
  • Stop working at least 2 hours before you go to bed
  • If you still can’t sleep then try getting up and doing a relaxing activity instead of just lying there getting frustrated.
  • Schedule your sleep into your routine and set aside 8 hours, think of this as giving your body what it needs to ensure you can be ultra productive the next day

The more you give your body the healing/rest time it needs the lower your stress levels will be and the more energy you will have throughout the day.  When you can’t sleep it creates a sleep debt which sleeping in on the weekends just isn’t enough to do the trick. The best way is to go to bed an hour earlier each night; it’s worth missing an hour in the evening to get all the potential extra energy you could have during the day.

There are two arms to the nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Some refer to the PNS as the “rest and digest system” and the SNS as the “fight or flight” system (1).  In times of stress the SNS becomes dominant and aids in the release of glucose from its stores in the body, increases heart rate and blood pressure. If stress is on-going cortisol is released from the adrenal glands which may contribute to weight gain long term (2).

There are many different techniques that can be used to decrease stress and aid relaxation such as; guided imagery C.D’s, meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, bathing in Epsom Salts and deep breathing exercises. Apps such as Headspace have also gained popularity as a course in guided meditation that can be used on both iPhone and Android mobiles https://www.headspace.com/.

As little as 5-15 minutes a day of relaxation can be beneficial. Find a relaxation activity that you like to do and develop the practise of doing it regularly. It may take some time to develop the techniques and skills for your new practise, so remember to be patient while you learn. 

Using deep breathing techniques, such as Pranayama used in Yoga teachings can help to reduce stress and move towards increased PNS activity (3).

In a relaxed state (PNS dominant) the body can digest and absorb nutrients from food more readily, heal and repair muscles and tissues, reduce muscle tension, help you to sleep better, improve your capacity to focus and think clearly and could even help you to develop a stronger immune system (2).

How to perform alternate nostril Pranayama (slow breathing)

Alternate nostril breathing (3)

  1. Sit in an easy and steady posture on a soft seat on the floor (or wherever possible).
  2. Keep the head, neck, and trunk erect, eyes closed, and other muscles reasonably loose.
  3. Use the thumb of the right hand to close the right nostril, and inhale for about 6 s. Then, use the index finger to close the left nostril, and exhale through the right nostril for about 6 s. This is one cycle.
  4. Alternate which nostril does the inhalation and exhalation with each cycle.
  5. The breathing must not be abdominal.
  6. During this practice, do not think much about the inhalation and exhalation. Rather, think about something calming, such as the blue sky, trying to minimize thoughts.
  7. Do this for at least five minutes per day.

breathing

References

  1. Patel TR. Anatomy of the Sympathetic Nervous System. Nerves and Nerve Injuries. Elsevier; 2015. p. 495–506.
  2. Alexander J, Ames B, MacDonald Baker S, Bland J, Bennett P. Textbook of Functional Medicine. 2010.
  3. Chaddha A. Breathing slower to live longer life. J Indian Coll Cardiol. Elsevier Ltd; 2015;5(3):183–8.
  4. The Art of Living, 2016. Pranayama: The Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Breathing Exercises. Available at: http://www.artofliving.org/us-en/yoga/breathing-techniques/yoga-and-pranayama [Accessed April 29, 2016].