Poor sleep is often the bottleneck when it comes to breaking bad habits and getting slim. When you’re tired you’re more likely to just say ‘Screw it’ and drive straight through the ‘M’ Golden Arches and order a double cheeseburger. I’m no saint, but when it comes to getting good shut-eye, I try to avoid these sleep sins at all costs.
1. Not having a set bed time/wake-up time
Having a lie in on a weekend is fine, right? Actually, it’s not. Sleeping 10+ hours on a Saturday because you’ve underslept all weekend is not healthy.
When we don’t sleep enough we accumulate ‘sleep debt’, which we end up having to pay back when we next have the chance. This mean that we make poor decisions, struggle to focus and make more mistakes in the short term. In the long term we age prematurely, gain weight and suffer memory loss. Yeesh.
Try to get to sleep and wake up at roughly the same times, even on a weekend and you’ll benefit from more energy, more focus and stronger will-power. You should also avoid the snooze button in the morning.
2. Being a couch-potato
Exercise is like a free super-food. While you’re feeding your body oxygen, you’re also clearing out your lymphatic system, removing harmful toxins from your body and boosting your energy.
Skip your daily cardio boost though and you’ll struggle. Not only will you feel more tired (particularly in the afternoon), you’ll also get lower quality sleep. There’s nothing more frustrating than being tired but not being able to fall asleep.
Make sure you exercise with a moderate to high intensity for 30 minutes every day and you’ll soon find yourself falling easily into the deepest, most restful sleep imaginable.
3. Drinking coffee at night
My dad drinks more tea than anyone in the world. He can have a cup then fall straight to sleep. Unfortunately I didn’t inherit this trait. I am very sensitive to caffeine and I didn’t realise what effect it was having on me until I stopped.
I decided to go 1 week without caffeine and after just 2 days I felt a difference. I was less dehydrated and I felt I could get to sleep at a reasonable time far easier.
You don’t have to stop caffeine completely, just make sure you only drink it between 10am and 2pm to avoid poor cortisol rhythms and problems getting to sleep.
4. Taking your phone to bed.
It’s so normal to do now I can sense the excuses already. ‘I use it as my alarm.’ ‘It actually helps me fall asleep.’ Let me call bullshit right now.
Phones do NOT help you sleep. They make it harder to sleep. Let me explain why.
First of all, the obvious reason, your phone’s screen sends out blue light which suppresses melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep, prolonging the amount of time it will take to fall asleep and making your sleep less efficient.
Secondly, and this one is a little harder to grasp but far more important, you are addicted to your phone routine. Like any addiction, the more you do it, the less effective the stimulus becomes and the more you have to do it to get the same effect. Basically, your brain gets a little hit of dopamine every time it receives some new information, whether that’s a funny video or a notification that somebody ‘likes’ a thing you’ve posted. The first few times the hit is intense, after a while you need more to get the same hit, and your brain begins to expect it.
Now when you lay in bed you feel like you need to watch a video or go on Facebook. It’s actually made it harder to sleep.
Plug your phone in to charge away from your bed and try to reduce all lights in your house to a minimum for 1-2 hours before bed time.
5. Not knowing how to switch off.
Answering emails, dealing with colleagues and worrying about deadlines are things that should be done at work. Once you get home you should switch off and relax.
I know for some people it just feels like this kind of stress is built into your personality, but I promise you it isn’t. You can learn to overcome such anxieties, and as long as you stay on top of them everything feels a little bit better in your every day life.
Having a fun weekly evening routine routine where you can leave your phone on Do Not Disturb can be a great way to relax more often. I also find reading (books not Facebook updates) can broaden your mind and improve your perspective.
Lots of these are easy wins for your health and can be a great way to start living a healthier life. Do as many as you can for 1 week and see how you get on.
Comment below if you’re going to get better sleep from now and share this with your significant other so you are both on the same page.