How to Optimize Your Sleep
Updated: May 15, 2020
According to the National Sleep Foundation, we’re getting 20% less sleep per night on average than we did 40 years ago. A lack of sleep has been linked to impaired mental function, increases in cardiovascular risk, and impaired metabolism, just to name a few.
When we don’t get adequate sleep measured by both duration and quality, our body is in a state of stress.
This triggers an increase in cortisol which prompts the body to store more fat and use other soft tissue (like muscle) as energy instead. So at rest your body is storing fat and using muscle for energy, which further decreases your calorie burning capacity. A lack of sleep also increases ghrelin (hunger) and decreases leptin (satiety) meaning you’re more likely to overeat the next day.
Although the optimal number of hours of sleep will vary from person to person, you should aim for 8-9 hours of deep, quality sleep every night. From a metabolic and fat-loss perspective, 7 hours minimum is the goal!
A few ways to promote deep sleep are to:
Have a regular sleep routine: try to wake up and fall asleep at the same times every day, even during the weekend
Keep it dark: avoid artificial lights from your TV, phone, computer, ipad, and floor lights before bed. If you're working on your computer all day and especially at night time, download f.lux on your devices or invest in blue light blocking glasses to remove the blue light that can keep you awake
Limit caffeine and alcohol: if you cannot give up coffee, try to have your daily cup before 11 am so that it does not interfere with your sleep. Also, avoid alcohol at night as it will fragment your sleep and block REM sleep
Eat your carbs at night: yes, your read that right! Eating carbohydrates with your evening meal will help to increase melatonin and serotonin production to help achieve a deeper sleep
Don’t remain in bed awake: after 20-25 minutes of tossing and turning, take a walk or read a book under dimmed lights. I loved this analogy by Dr. Matthew Walker “You’d never sit at the dinner table waiting to get hungry. So why would you lay in bed waiting to get sleepy? And the answer is you shouldn’t. You should get out of bed.”