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10 Tips to Improve Sleep and Help Lose Weight

How often are you frustrated when you can’t finish a report because you’re not motivated or not be able to cross anything off on the To-Do list and you seem to keep adding on pounds weekly?

Many of us have these similar scenarios: A) you’re feeling sleepy at work, so you drink a two to three cups of coffee with a muffin to give yourself an energy boost to finish a deadline or make it through the day’s appointments or B) stay up late to finish the work you couldn’t get to during the work day then sleep through the morning alarm clock which makes you miss the morning workout and rush to work with  a cup of coffee in one hand and a yoghurt in the other.

You’re left feeling stiff because of no exercise and groggy because of lack of sleep. And the unhealthy cycle of caffeine, comfort foods and faux healthy snacks slowly takes over as normal.

Consider the fact that you may be sleep deprived. Most people do not get enough sleep each night.

As of February 2015, The National Sleep Foundation (sleepfoundation.org) updated their study and now recommends these hours based on the following age category:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range is 14-17 hours each day
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range is 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range is 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range is 10-13 hours
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range is 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range is hour to 8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours

National Sleep Foundation research has pointed out that women have the ability to multi-task and use more of their actual brain than men which creates a greater need for sleep for women. On average women need a minimum of twenty minutes more of sleep than men. Essentially, the more you use the brain during the day, the more it needs to rest while asleep.  Overall, women need more sleep than men and many do not get the proper range of sleep.

The body rests during sleep, not the brain. The brain remains active, gets recharged and still controls many body functions including breathing during sleep. Sleep prepares the brain for activities related to learning and memory. The brain secretes certain hormones such as Growth Hormone (GH) and the paired ‘hunger hormones’, leptin and ghrelin.

Studies have shown that getting too little sleep lowers the body’s production of the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, which can make a person feel hungrier and activates cravings for high-calorie snacks. Leptin hormone, an appetite suppressor, gets release when we are sleeping. When you have less sleep, you have less leptin. When you have more sleep, you have more leptin released into the body.

Ghrelin hormone, an appetite increaser, is primarily released in the stomach and sends hunger signals to the brain. The more sleep one gets, the less ghrelin gets released into the body. The less sleep, the more ghrelin, hunger signals, gets released to the brain.

Over time, less leptin and more gherlin in the body can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Although worry or stress can cause a short bout of insomnia, a persistent inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night can be caused by a number of other factors. Certain medications and sleep disorders can keep you up at night. Other common causes for insomnia are depression, anxiety disorders, asthma or arthritis may have symptoms that become more active at night.

Older people don’t need less sleep, but often get less sleep or find it less refreshing. As people age, they spend less time in the deep, restful stages of sleep. Older people tend to take medications that have a side effect that disrupts their sleep.

Many believe that resting during the day can replace the required sleep amount. However, it’s not true. Naps are not substitutes for a good night’s sleep. They can be restorative and help counter some of the impaired performance that resulted from not getting enough sleep at night. It’s best to avoid taking a nap late in the day because it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.  Limit naps to about an hour or less because longer naps can make it harder to wake up and get back in the swing of things. Taking frequent naps during the day may indicate a sleep disorder that needs attention.

While sleeping more hours on weekends can relieve some sleep deprivation, it will not completely make up for the lack of sleep.  This pattern will not make up for the poor performance during the week due to fatigue from not sleeping enough. Furthermore, sleeping later on the weekends can affect your biological clock. It can increase difficulty sleeping at the right time on Sunday night and waking up for Monday morning.

Lifestyle instructions

  1. Besides improved sleep, those who use acupuncture treatment have obtained an increased feeling of well-being and feel considerable improvement in their overall health.  Acupuncture can balance Qi or Vital Energy which vary with stress levels.  Acupuncture can reduce nervous and irritability sensations, lower feelings of anxiety, relieve muscular tension and cramping. People often tighten their jaws and stomach and hunch over when stressed.
    Using acupuncture to treat difficulty sleeping is often specific according to the other issues surrounding the individual. It’s important to ensure the triggers for difficulty sleeping are significantly reduced. Expect 6-8 weeks of regular treatment to see results
  2. A diet high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins B & E is recommended. These nutrients are easily depleted by stress from lack of sleep.
  3. Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate) and alcohol at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. Avoid tobacco and sugar whenever possible.
  4. Avoid foods that contain Tyramine near bedtime. Tyramine increases the release of the brain stimulant, norepinephrine, and can increase blood pressure. Food with high content of tyramine include bacon, cheese, chocolate, eggplant, ham, potatoes, sugar, sausage, spinach and tomatoes. If you are prone to headaches or migraines, it’s also best to avoid these foods.
  5. If insomnia is related to work or stress, try not to work in the bedroom and remove anything that may remind you of the office. A warm bath or light snack before bedtime may also be helpful.
  6. Have a good routine. Exercise regularly, adequate breaks during the day and sleeping and waking up at the same hours are ideal habits that reduce stress and anxiety.
  7. Practice daily meditation exercises at least twice a day. It can be just 5 minutes each session. However, the longer the meditation time, the better. Yoga is commonly used with meditation to improve mental clarity.
  8. Get away from daily routines and do something enjoyable to relieve stress and anxiety whenever possible. Such as walking your dog or listening to your favourite songs away from the desk.
  9. Create a dark room ambience in the bedroom. Lights affect our internal sleep clock. Darkness signals the brain that it’s time to rest and start producing melatonin, which aids in sleeping. Reduce bright lights including the ones from the computer and cell phone. Some may need to get dark colour or blackout curtains to eliminate outside lights.
  10. Reduce noise in the evening, especially in the bedroom. Turn down the volume on the stereo and television and practice talking at a slightly lower tone.

Do your best to wind down a good hour before bedtime. Watch what you snack on after dinner and before bedtime. Start dimming the lights around the home. Tell yourself it is ok to transit into slower mode. You’ll notice your mood and energy shifting within a few days of longer sleep hours and eventually, you’ll see the weight stabilizing then slowly coming off.

This is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep with difficulty waking up the next morning or you notice unusual patterns during sleep such as snoring, excessive movements or constant sleepiness with sluggishness during the day which continues for more than 2-3 weeks, talk to your doctor or sleep specialist for further treatment options.

Tueykay Jew, L.Ac, is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Health, Weight Loss & Personal Development Coach, based in the Los Angeles, California area. You can reach her at info@simplythinforever.com or call 310-804-4733