A healthy body needs more than a balanced diet and regular exercise. It also requires one of the most basic of biological functions—sleep. Sleep allows the body to heal, cleanse, and rejuvenate itself so that you can function at your best. Getting a full seven to eight hours of sleep is essential for the body to establish a healthy metabolism, control appetite, and maintain a healthy weight.
Appetite and Sleep Deprivation
Even one or two hours less sleep at night can have a detrimental effect on your body. When you’re sleep deprived, the brain changes the amount of appetite-controlling hormones it releases. Ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry, gets released in greater amounts while leptin, the hormone that makes you feel satiated, gets released in smaller amounts. The result—overeating and unwanted weight gain.
The appetite changes don’t stop there. Not only does the amount of food you crave change so does the type of food you want. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation increases cravings for high-fat, sugary foods.
Also, sleep deprivation causes the reward center of the brain to get even more rewards than usual from some snack foods. Sleep deprivation affects the rewards center of the brain much like marijuana, which also causes a serious case of the munchies. Cake, cookies, and ice cream really are harder to resist when you’re tired. It’s hard to stay on track to a healthier lifestyle when your body is working against you.
How to Get More (and Better) Sleep
Along with more sleep comes better appetite control and healthier food choices. Better sleep always starts in a bedroom with the right conditions and equipment. Your mattress should be supportive of your preferred sleep position. A lumpy, sagging bed should be replaced so that aches and pains don’t wake you during the night or cause stiffness in the morning. The room should be dark, quiet, and cool to help you quickly fall asleep. If you live in an area with light or sound pollution, black curtains or heavy drapes can help block out distractions.
While your bedroom setup is important, so are your habits and behaviors before bedtime. In fact, everything you do throughout the day can impact your ability to get a good night’s rest. Work on building good sleep hygiene, which is all the habits and behaviors in your life that contribute to the quality of your sleep.
Make Enough Time for Sleep
If you’re going to get a solid seven hours of sleep, you need to set aside at least that much time or a little more in case it takes awhile to fall asleep. That may mean skipping an extra episode on Netflix or putting down your favorite book a little earlier than usual.
Keep a Consistent Bedtime
The body runs on circadian rhythms, which rely on natural daylight and a regular schedule to control your sleep-wake cycle. A consistent bedtime helps the brain know when to release sleep-inducing hormones. Once you’ve established your bedtime, the brain will start the release automatically, so you feel tired at the same time every day.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
Bedtime routines work wonders for those who may have a hard time falling asleep. These routines work along with a consistent bedtime to help establish healthy circadian rhythms because they train the brain to know when to start the release of sleep hormones. Reading a book, taking a warm bath, meditation, or gentle yoga are all excellent activities to calm the mind and body before bed. It doesn’t matter what you include as part of your routine as long as it’s relaxing and relieves tension. The idea is prepare your body and mind for a full night of sleep.
Selina Hall is an expert on sleep health and wellness for BestMattressReviews.com. She believes that sleep is one of the most important pillars of health. Selina lives in Portland, Oregon. She sleeps best under a handmade quilt passed down from her great-grandmother.