The Power of Sleep

Believe it or not, adequate sleep has a lot to do with your overall health and your waistline. We spend so much time focusing on eating right and making sure we get our workout in, that sometimes we forget the importance of rest and relaxation. Are you guilty of neglecting your body’s call for breaks? I always tell my clients that rest is just as important as healthy food and movement. Consistent periods of relaxation help reduce long-term stress. Lack of sleep can lower our willpower, making us more likely to make unhealthy choices. When you’re tired, you are more likely to skip meals and you are also more likely to try to use sugary, caffeinated drinks to try to keep your energy levels up. This can lead to weight gain from consuming empty calories. (1) Lack of sleep also boosts your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels are raised it causes your body to store fat, particularly around your midsection. Listen to your body when it’s asking for a break. The good news is that you don’t have to give up your evening activities to squeeze in a few extra hours of shut eye – the key here is quality, not quantity. How many hours of sleep do you need to feel refreshed and revitalized? Seven, eight, maybe even nine? Your sleep needs are as individual as your food requirements – depending on your daily schedule you may need more or less. Whether you require six, seven, or eight hours of sleep, these tips will help you maximize that precious time: • The Harvard Medical School, recommends avoiding caffeine after noon, and going light on alcohol. ''Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 12 hours. Alcohol can act as a sedative, but it also disturbs sleep.'' • Watching TV and surfing the web right before bed will leave you over-stimulated and restless – so turn off your electronics and listen to soft music or meditate instead. If you have kids, set a no-TV-before-bed rule and watch their energy skyrocket. I’m guilty of using my phone right before bed, lately I’ve been working on eliminating this habit and it’s amazing how much better quality sleep I’m getting. • Create a sleep ''sanctuary'', Keep your bedroom for sleep and intimacy. Turn the lights, noise, and heat down as you get ready to sleep. Light candles, turn off or mute noisy electronics, and try to keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature. (2) • Late-night snacking (especially on junk foods) and caffeine before bed will keep you counting sheep into the early hours, so plan your last meal in advance. However, don’t go to bed on an empty stomach either – balance is key. Remember – sleep well to be well!

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