Makeover Monday: To Sleep Perchance to Be Fit

By now, most of are aware of the studies that show a correlation between getting proper sleep and successful weight loss. I don’t know about you, but I took to my bed for a week after I first heard about it. Nothing happened. Apparently it works best in conjunction with proper diet and exercise. (There’s always #$@&$ fine print, isn’t there?)

When I first started reading about this notion of sleep as a weight loss aid, I decided to add improved sleep habits to my fitness repertoire, at least on weekdays. No more getting started on some writing project at 10:00 p.m., no laundry at 11:00 p.m., no midnight chats with friends—oh wait, I still do that on occasion. (West coast friends, you know…)

It’s not as easy as setting an alarm to go to sleep. I can’t just stop in the middle of an email, get in bed, and fall asleep within minutes. Unless, of course, I haven’t been getting proper amounts of sleep for the previous days, and then I’ve been known to fall asleep on the way TO the bed.

No, for me it’s a transitional thing. My mind and body need time to adjust to the new event. First, we were up and moving around for 16-17 hours, now we’re going to be still and horizontal for 7 or 8 hours. I have to go through the routine of shutting down all my systems, so to speak, and getting ready for bed. A bedtime routine does that for me.

I’ve sought out various tips and tricks over the past months, and I’ll share some of them here, just in case they may be helpful to anyone else who needs to improve their sleep habits.

– Take a warm bath just before bedtime. The drop in body temperature may send a message to your brain that sleep is needed. Using aromatherapy products (I like lavender anything!) via bath oils or scented candles will improve the effects. This is also a good time to brush your teeth, moisturize, wonder if you have any clean clothes for the next day, etc. All signals to your mind and body that bedtime is imminent.

– Complete some gentle stretches, breathing exercises, or meditation to calm your mind and body. My favorite is to breathe slowly, counting backward from 60, inhaling on the even numbers and exhaling on the odd numbers. (I ‘m usually asleep before I reach 30. *g*)

– Going against some popular weight loss advice, I find that a light snack close to bedtime helps me sleep better. A couple of slices of cold pizza and a short beer
will usually have me snoozing—gotcha! I’m kidding, of course. I usually have a small piece of low-fat cheese or a container of Dannon Light n’ Fit yogurt (vanilla, if you were wondering). I think the reason I’ve made a habit of dairy or soy products as a bedtime snack is that they contain tryptophan which can make you feel quite sleepy. (Think about the glass of warm milk concept.) I don’t drink hot tea, but I have it on good authority that a pre-bedtime cuppa is also a wonder worker.

– Avoid activities that stimulate the brain or body just before bedtime: email, computer games, physical exercise, caffeine, horror or action movies, spicy foods, etc. (You’ll note the absence of sex on the list of stimulants to avoid. It is, of course, an exception. So go forth and stimulate with glee.)

– Go to bed at the same time every night. This is easier for those of us who don’t have kids, I think. And don’t care if there are dirty dishes in the sink and/or a load of laundry still to be done.

– If you’ve done all of these things and sleep still doesn’t happen, it’s best to get up and go into another room until you’re ready to try again. Reading a book or listening to soft music might just help! (I would suggest reading my past blog entries as a sleep inducer, but getting on the computer isn’t advisable as a pre-bedtime activity.*g*)

Establishing a bedtime routine that promotes deep, restful sleep isn’t accomplished with a snap of the fingers. It takes a little practice. But it’s well worth the effort! We’ll be more mentally and physically alert, and better able to withstand the temptation to choose the wrong foods or tank the exercise in favor of the sofa.

How do you ensure you’re getting proper rest? Do you have a bedtime ritual? Feel free to share….

Happy Monday, everyone!

(photo by striatic)