If you have trouble getting quality sleep, rest assured you’re not alone. “Rest assured” is probably a poor reference here… However, surveys into sleeping problems reveal that between forty and sixty percent of adults don’t feel that they sleep as well as they should or would like to. It is often down to stress in a variety of fashions: money, family, work, aches and pains, general discomfort, poor quality pillow or bed, or a myriad of other reasons.
You may have also heard that the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to gain weight. Now you have just added another reason to stress and not sleep.
So put your book down and stop counting sheep and let us help you understand how the necessity of great sleep can help tip the scale to better health and weight loss.
Quality Assured Sleep
Good quality sleep is crucial to maintaining good health. It allows your body to recharge and regenerate, and gives your mind the break it needs to stay focused through the next day.
Our body is maintained by a series of delicate balances that help us maintain a set “level” that keeps us healthy. Many of these set points are balanced by hormones that regulate the body. One of these set points is our hunger.
What Studies Have Found
According to Gregory B. Dodell, MD, an endocrinologist at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals, there are two hormones called ghrelin, which is a protein that is made by the stomach that stimulates you to be hungry, and leptin, which is a hormone that is released by fat cells that helps you to be full. When we neglect our sleep, studies have found that our body stimulates the release of more ghrelin, and decreases the release of leptin. This means that our bodies will crave more food which tends to be foods high in salt and high in calories. With the lack of sleep our body will give into these cravings which results in a higher risk for becoming overweight or obese in the future.
Sleep Time Solutions
Many people who experience problems sleeping will resort to sleeping pills, but research shows these do not provide the truly quality periods of deep sleep that we need, and anyone who’s used them will testify to how fuzzy they can make you feel in the morning. But never fear one solution is nearer than you think.
Doctors of chiropractic are trained in all aspects of creating wellness, and can offer advice to help the troubled sleeper kick the meds and enjoy a naturally-induced slumber that refreshes as it should.
Here are a few tips to create a better environment for quality sleep:
- Exercise regularly, and preferably in the morning. Evening exercise can raise your heartbeat into a range that may prevent you settling down to sleep. Try to leave a 2 to 3 hour gap between finishing exercise and going to bed.
- Limit caffeine consumption later in the day and especially before bed. That means not just coffee, but caffeinated sodas and also tea. Counteract the effect of any such beverage during the day by drinking an equal amount of water.
- If you need water during the night, drink it at room temperature not cold, which can upset the digestion and therefore your sleep.
- Try not to eat dinner later than 6pm, again because this sets off the digestive functions which need to be settled for you to sleep well.
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same times to program your system.
- Sleep in a cool room and as dark as possible. Any light, even through closed eyelids, triggers hormones to be produced that tell you to wake up.
What is just as important is to make sure you give yourself the best chance of sleep by choosing a good mattress and pillow.
Looking Under the Covers
- Support should be uniform from head to toe, with no unsupportive gaps.
- To firm up a soft mattress if you have back pain, put a board underneath it, but only until you feel better. Too-firm mattresses are not good.
- Flip your mattress, or rotate it head to toe every few months to prevent any part becoming permanently indented.
- When you start waking up feeling achy, that may be a sign you need a new mattress. Mattress life varies according to the quality of the build and how it is used.
- Your mattress may need changing sooner if you experience changes in your life that affect you physically: weight gain or loss or injuries, for example, or anything that affects the weight or the placement of weight on your mattress – Even a new partner!
- To soften up a too-hard mattress if you don’t want to splurge on a new one, there are memory-foam toppers available that will certainly help.
The mattress should provide even support for the body and maintain the spine in its natural alignment. This is subjective for each person. To give an idea of whether it feels okay for you, it is recommended that you lie down on it in the store for 3 to 5 minutes. Any longer and you may be ejected for just being a hobo in search of a free lie-down.
A bad pillow can negate all the good work performed every night by a good mattress. The aim of a pillow is to keep the cervical spine (the neck) aligned with the thoracic and lumbar sections of the spine (the chest and the lower back).
- As a guide, a pillow should be able to keep your head and neck level with your mid and lower spine when you are lying on your side. If you lie on your back, it should be able to keep your head and neck level with your upper back and spine. Any deviation from these that angles your head and neck wrongly means you need to find another pillow.
- Foam pillows are good so long as the material is firm enough to provide proper support and not squish away to nothing under your weight.
- You should not need to put your arm under your pillow to get it to the right height, nor bend it over on itself to double its thickness. Those are good indicators your pillow is wrong.
- Like a mattress, it is not a one-size-fits-all situation with pillows. Choose the one that is right for your shape.
All Weighed Up!
You know the importance of exercise and diet, but if you want to lose those extra pounds, one key may be to include getting a good night’s rest on a regular basis to make sure your body is in balance.
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