Here is part 3 of a series of blogs on habit formation written up for my friends and colleagues at Just Sweat Fitness.
Over the past couple of months, we’ve introduced you to a concept of creating habit changes, as an option for lifestyle changes, over attempting a large overhaul at once (which can be very overwhelming or goal defeating for many of us).
As talked about in the past two blog posts of this series, while plans and larger overhauls can have their place and might work well for some of us, or for certain circumstances or goals (such as a specific event, sport, etc), they may not be a good fit for all of us.
For many of us and for many “real life” circumstances, gradually introducing habits can help create lasting change for the long run (much, much more awesome and life changing than a potentially short-lived goal (which is what can be the outcome of some plans and goals)).
For this particular blog post, rather than following the sequence of habits as they’re introduced to clients, I wanted to focus on a super important aspect of change (and life): Sleep.
I had a conversation with a friend and colleague the other day about times in our own (and the people we care about) lives, when sleep seemed to be the most neglected or difficult to get. We then talked about how pretty much our entire lives were impacted and what we would have done differently during these periods of time (or had advised others to try out).
This led me to want to share it here with you guys- some of the practices I have found helpful, and some of what clients and others have found helpful (or are integrating and trying out).
Sleep is definitely a struggle for many of us at times (I know it’s something I can struggle with and have to stay on top of consistently) and can be one of the most overlooked, easy to neglect, and important aspects of lifestyle change goals and life in general.
The problem with losing sleep or placing less importance on it than it really deserves is….well, there are a lot of problems and potential negative outcomes with this. Let’s talk about some of them.
- Difficulties losing weight
- Weight gain
- Hormonal disturbances/changes
- Lack of motivation (or a general feeling of “blah” and dragging a#%.)
- Poor recovery between workouts and workouts feel more challenging than usual
- Increased cravings for Calorie dense non-nutritious food options
- Increased cravings for alcohol or other mind altering substances
- Difficulties managing emotions
- Increased risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns
- Decreased sex drive/sexual dysfunction
- Menstrual irregularities
- Personality changes/differences
- Skin problems
- Difficulties making decisions
- Impaired judgement
- Impaired memory/cognitive functions
- Looking generally “exhausted” (the possibilities of lovely bags, dark circles (or both) under eyes, changes in body language and posture, skin appearing dull, etc.)
And much more, with many of these things overlapping and being related to one another. Sounds like fun, huh? Hmmm, probably not.
With these challenges and changes potentially brought about by poor sleep, you can likely see the many ways this can make it incredibly difficult to progress with lifestyle changes and weight loss (and to enjoy life to its full capacity in general).
Everyone around us can also be greatly impacted by this; we won’t be the best we could be for ourselves or those we love, care about, and interact with.
While uber important, it also can’t be denied that sleep can be a really challenging thing to get enough of, especially if you’re a busy person, or your brain is, or you both are, if you are experiencing a higher level of perceived stress, have a family, an odd schedule, or already seem to be pre-dispositioned to sleep challenges (or any combination and more).
What can help
A pre-bed ritual is something that is practiced and recommended to clients. This could include many things and playing around to find what works for you can be really valuable.
Some tips and things to try:
- Epsom salt baths before bed
- Light stretching or relaxing/restorative movement (like yin yoga)
- Darken your room (really darken it)- with black out blinds or, if you don’t have black out blinds, garbage bags can work very well, too!
- Sleep/eye masks can be really helpful- and if you do go with an eye mask and choose not to use black out blinds, this can also make it easier to wake up to natural light in the morning (depending on your window situation and your room location, of course).
- Cuddling (with your partner or spouse, pet, kid(s), etc)
- Turning any electronics off (ideally getting them out of the room).
- Choosing an alarm clock over a cell phone to wake you up in the morning (if you wake up to an alarm clock)
- Alarm clocks turned to face the wall or covered with a dark cloth at night time to limit light
- Doing a “brain dump” in a journal by getting all thoughts out on paper (super awesome for a mind that doesn’t seem to want to rest)
- Making a to-do list for the next day (so thinking about what needs to be done the next day isn’t interrupting quality sleep)
And more (see attached resources for more ideas and tips). Overall, sleep is not just incredibly important; sleep is vital. And when we aren’t getting enough of it, pretty much all areas of life can be impacted, definitely including any weight loss or other body composition goals we may have, lifestyle changes in general, and the people in our lives.
Give sleep the important place in life and the priority it deserves to be, and watch how many things begin to change (inside and out).
Keep us posted on any tips you try out or have to offer. We’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for reading,
Resources and further reading:
All About Sleep
Hacking Sleep: Engineering a High Quality, Restful Night
The Power of Sleep (Infographic): Why sleep is so important and how to get more of it
Research Review: Sleep, Stress, and Fat Loss