Monday, December 8, 2008

Habit-A-Week Challenge, Week 10: Sleep!!

It's Week 10 of the Healthy Habit-A-Week Challenge, and this week's habit is: get enough sleep. Might sound simple, but for many of us, it's a challenge. And yes, this has a lot to do with weight loss AND general health and well-being! According to recent studies, insufficient sleep is linked to increased risk for colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Other studies show that "even mild sleep deprivation quickly disrupts normal levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite." Thus, sleep deprivation is linked to obesity. Yet another study showed that when a group of men restricted their sleep to 4 hours per night, two nights in a row, they had a 24% increase in appetite and "specifically craved high-sugar, high-salt and starchy foods." And a study of 1,000 people in Wisconsin "found that the less people slept, the higher their body mass index." So do yourself and your waistline a favor: get enough sleep.

How much sleep do you need? It varies by person, with most people needing between 7 and 9 hours per day. Studies indicate increased risk for health problems when people get less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep each night.

Some tips for getting a good nights sleep:

1. Don't drink caffeine late in the day
2. Don't eat heavily within several hours of bedtime
3. Go to bed at the same time every night
4. Sleep in a cool, completely dark, quiet room
5. Exercise daily (but not right before bed)

Okay, this is all fine and dandy, but reality is that a lot of us find reasons aka excuses for not sleeping. Too busy being the #1 excuse. I fall into this category. I am up at 6am because of my 3-year-old, who cheerily pounces on me at the crack of dawn shouting, "IS IT CHRISTMAS???" But I usually don't go to bed until 11pm. Why? Because I am busy. I have kids, I run around all day doing stuff. I have dinner at 6, get the little one in bed by 7 most nights, do homework with kids, maybe watch a little TV. Sometimes I even ride my exercise bike at 8 or 9. And I *like* my alone time at night, with no one hassling me to do things or asking me a million questions (although that does sometimes happen... even though I *detest* helping with physics or calculus homework at 10pm). Usually, if I go to bed before 10 or 10:30, I lie in bed and can't sleep. What to do?

I gotta make it a habit. I really need to get into bed by 10 in order to get enough sleep. I think if I just *do it*, eventually my body will respond. I have a lot of trouble falling sleep, though. I feel like my brain is always on high alert. Always thinking. Always ready to respond. And I worry.

What helps me the most is to relax for an hour or so before bedtime. I take a warm bath, or just wrap up in a blanket with a mug of decaf tea. Actually, warm milk is supposed to help with sleep, and many people like a mug of warm milk with a dash of vanilla and a drop of honey in it to relax them. Some people take melatonin supplements, but I have no experience with those, so if you do, please leave a comment and share your experience!

Let's try and get a good night's sleep each night this week. Look at your schedule and find a way to get 7 hours, at least. Maybe sleep will be the key for you to drop those pounds you want to lose.

If you have any *getting a good night's sleep* tips, please leave them in the comments. I need all the help I can get with this one!


ryry the adventurous said...

Best nights of sleep I have are after a long hot bath and a good stretching. Like 15-20 minutes of stretching and/or yoga, I sleep like the happy dead.

Linda Meacham said...

When ever I can't sleep I usually take a bath with lavender bubble bath for about 30 minutes then head back to bed. before I know it I'm out! I have recognized that when I'm working out regularly I sleep sounder and feel much more refreshed when I wake up.

Hillary said...

Melatonin is super gentle and non-habit it. Take it along with tea/milk and a 1/2 banana (potassium and carb also said to help w/ sleep) about 45 minute before bed. Read or whatever, then go to bed relaxed and let the ZZZZs come!

Holly said...

starting following the blog..and I have no advice for sleeping more. I work 3rd shift, and average about 3-4 on my work days :(

I know this unhealthy, but there just aren't enough hours in the day!!

I'll be checking back to see if anyone has good ideas..

H.H. said...

I read an article recently (self or fitness, I think) about how keeping a regular sleep routine is very important to feeling rested. It said the worst thing you can do is sleep in on the weekends. They suggested keeping your bedtime and waking up time the same, or at least within an hour of the same time, every day. Interesting in theory, but definitely hard to implement. I definitely don't go to bed early enough and only get about 5-6 hours of sleep a night. Booh!

Katschi said...

Personally, I think sleep studies are overrated. I know lots of thin people who don't sleep & are healthy but tired only. However, I don't believe the ACT of sleeping is the least bit overrated :) I wish I could sleep more than the average 5 hours I get a night. I know the less I have on my mind the better I sleep though not necessarily for longer.

Jayme said...

Great tips lyn, as always:)

Our paediatrition recommended melatonin for my 9yr old who is on medication for adhd and has a hard time sleeping due to the side effects of his medication.

We bought it and it works great, non habit forming and we give him 3mg a half an hour before bed and it works, he falls asleep quickly and is well rested in the morning.

I went away for a week in the summer and couldnt sleep for the life of me,, i remembered my sons melatonin and decided to give it a try,, i fell off asleep that night with my clothes on and a crossword puzzle book and pen in my hands,, i dont even recall dozing off, but boy did i feel great in the morning!!

Vickie said...

I might be the lone voice saying this - but I take two Benadryl every night - to fall asleep and stay asleep.

SIDENOTE: I started out with Tylenol PM on the advice of doctor but then he changed his mind to say that Benedryl is the sleep part of Tylenol PM without the Tylenol and that I should not take Tylenol 365 days a year because of risk to kidneys.

I am also on a version of an AntiDep and that helps with the generalized anxiety and other symptoms too.

Before that - I had never slept well - not as a child - not as a baby - not my whole adult life. I had very high anxiety - always - and a mind that would not shut off. I did not REALLY understand this - until I got on the right combination of meds.

Before that - I would have been commenting saying - sleep is over rated and has very little to do with weight loss or anything else. I would have said - I make it just fine on a few hours of sleep. I would have said that I didn't need a lot of sleep.

I don't think any of those things now. I think that the lack of sleep was a major symptom/clue that things were not well.

I am one of those people that is on meds for life.

If the Benadryl stops working at some point - I'll go on a 1/2 of the lowest dose of a sleeping pill and start out there.

PS - I do sleep in a dark room. I sleep with a fan for white noise. Everyone at my house is careful to plan their day so that mine is winding DOWN in the evening and not hit me with surprises or something worrying or needing something major after dinner. My kids know to do things at 4pm and not 9pm.

Vickie said...

and Melatonin is on my list for my next doctor visit

~TMcGee~ said...

I've been practicing this habit for about 2 weeks now and I have to tell you it has made a world of difference.
I am a terrible nightowl. I love my alone time and night is when I get that alone time. But I also have recognized that between the hours of 7 p.m. and midnight is when I do my worst eating.
So, I've been forcing myself to be showered and in bed no later than 10:30 p.m. My 3 year old wakes me up every morning at 6:30 a.m. and having 7 to 8 hours of sleep under my belt makes my day go much better.
I too have a hyper mind that can't shut off. So, the only thing that works for me is literally praying for everyone in my family - it's a long list. LOL I know that sounds terrible...I pray myself into a bored state and fall asleep but it really does work. I suppose counting sheep or doing some sort of meditation would work too. :) Good luck!

♥ Dee ♥ said...

Like you, I have a hard time shutting off my brain. Years ago I read a tip that said to distract your brain with something it knows but can concentrate on, such as singing Oh Canada or reciting the Lord's Prayer.

That worked for me. Two cycles and out like a light. But then my brain learned how to sing and think at the same time (the secret is that if you catch yourself wandering, start over at the beginning and force yourself to concentrate).

The other day I read another tip that is working beautifully for me. Count backwards from 300 by 3s. I have yet to make it below 200 without falling asleep!

Amy said...

My tip is if you are overweight, always tired, and your significant other has repeatedly told you that you stop breathing at night, toss and turn, snore and/or choke at night...

Get thee to a sleep study clinic!

Hubby has been on my case for years, I even had a friend in college tell me that I'd pause my breathing when I slept, but NO...I thought it was normal to be so tired as a mama of two little ones.

I found out that I stopped breathing 104 times in an hour! Now I sleep with a CPAP machine and I am a new woman! Ok, so I look like darth Vadar's girlfriend at night, but it is sooo worth it.

After so many years of poor sleep, I finally know what it feels like to get good sleep and to realize when I haven't had good sleep and make allowances for myself. And I have more energy to go to the Y, play w/my kids, and more.

Dinah Soar said...

I have a sleep CD with Delta waves--it works when all else fails. I found it at Bed, Bath and Beyond and I've also seen them at Target..and they are available online too.

moonduster said...

We have a brand new baby in the house and two of our other children have chicken pox, so I am definitely not getting enough sleep right now!

And it shows in the fact that my calories have been up this week, and I'm really craving sweets. *sigh*