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The Third Pillar of Weight Loss

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Eating healthier? Getting exercise and plenty of regular movement? Still not seeing much in the way of progress? If you're getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night, you could be negating the effects of your efforts. The less you sleep, the likelier you will eat more due to changes in appetite hormones, and the worse your body is able to manage blood sugar levels from those extra calories. From a health perspective, getting inadequate sleep negatively impacts your immune system, your blood pressure, your coronary arteries, and your brain and mental health.

So, now that I've got your attention, here are some practical tips (summarized from this NIH publication) on getting more/better sleep,:

  • Stick to a schedule, both for getting to bed and waking.

  • Avoid exercising in the 2-3 hours prior to bedtime

  • Avoid the stimulants caffeine and nicotine, which can take as long as 8 hours to wear off

  • Avoid alcohol before bed

  • Avoid large meals and beverages late at night

  • Talk to your healthcare provider for advice on the best time of day to take prescription medication that may disrupt sleep patterns

  • Avoid naps after 3 PM

  • Build in time to your schedule to relax before bed - read, listen to music, chill out

  • Take a hot bath or shower before bed

  • Sleep in a dark, cool, gadget free bedroom

  • Try to get outside for at least 30 minutes a day in order to get exposure to sunlight

  • If you find yourself awake for more than 20 minutes and/or are getting anxious about getting back to sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy

Take it one step at time, focusing on the trying something that feels easier for you. Try that out for a couple of weeks and see how you feel, then take it from there. If you want to know more about the current research on sleep, read Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker.

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