10 Steps to Natural Weight Loss and Health, Step 8: Get Good Sleep
It seems that we all have a hard time getting enough sleep. It's hard to get to bed really early and that morning alarm always rings too soon. Sleep is a vital activity for our bodies that allows us to recover from the day and prepare for tomorrow.
How Much Sleep?
The amount of sleep may vary from person to person. Babies obviously require large amounts of sleep while our grandparents somehow survive on very few. Most teenagers need at least 9 hours and generally adults need 7 to 9. In contrast, many adults today report getting less than six hours of sleep each night, then "catching up" on the weekends.
Effects of Too Little Sleep
Too little sleep is not the same thing as sleep deprivation, which is chronic sleep loss. A lack of sleep can affect many aspects of your life. It can impair memory and cognitive functioning. A lack of sleep slows your reaction time: a recent study has shown that sleep deprived people drive at the same level as drunk drivers. As your body builds up what is called sleep debt, it is harder and harder to get those hours back. It's not too bad if you miss out on one night of sleep, but the more nights you miss, the harder it is to regain that sleep. Some studies have even linked sleep to weight loss. People who are sleep deprived are much more likely to consume more calories the next day.
We need to work on building good sleep habits. Make your bedroom a comfortable place that you use only for sleeping, and be sure to refrain from doing work in bed. Treat your bed as a haven, a safe spot to recover from the day. Give yourself some time before bed to just rest and relax your mind; journal a little if you like. This will clear your head of all the chatter that tends to hit us as we hit the pillow. Use gentle music, a soft fan or other sources of white noise to cover up any outside sounds. This may ease the process of falling asleep. Be sure to avoid caffeine after 3 pm to give it time to exit your system. Try not to exercise just before bedtime, but don't skip the exercising altogether. Regular exercise will help you rest more deeply at night. If that's not enough for you, studies have shown that those who get less than 8 hours of sleep a night have higher levels of body fat than those who sleep more. Body fat correlates with sleep patterns; those who sleep the least tend to weigh the most.