This weekend presented a good news – bad news scenario for most of us. The good news: we added some much-needed sunlight to our days at the end of a winter that just won’t quit. The bad news: we lost an hour of sleep thanks to changing the clocks for daylight saving time. So on this particular Motivation Monday, instead of offering a boost to squat or stretch more often, I encourage you to use this drowsy day to take stock of something that’s crucial to our overall health but often overlooked: your sleep habits.
Why do we need sleep? Research shows along with helping us stay energized, sleep helps regulate our mood and learn and retain valuable information. There are even studies out there linking inadequate sleep to weight gain. On a personal note, when I rack up too many consecutive nights without enough shut-eye, it’s harder to concentrate on everything from my work to my workouts and I definitely get more annoyed by the little things that usually roll off my back.
Here are some ideas for incorporating those all-important zzzz’s into your healthy routine:
- Exercise: Physical activity can help you sleep. However, if I exercise less than two hours before going to bed, the endorphins keep me up. Aim to wrap a workout three hours before bedtime.
- Alcohol: Anyone who’s read this blog for some time knows I enjoy a glass of wine to unwind at the end of the day. However, too much alcohol can have the opposite effect of calming the nerves and end up wrecking your night. Of course, having a hangover the next day after too many libations is never a good thing.
- Caffeine: I have some friends who can have a cup of coffee after dinner at 8 pm and still fall asleep at 10:30 pm. If I have caffeine after 3 pm, I’m looking at a rough night ahead. The key is to pay attention to how your body reacts. Make sure you check for “hidden” caffeine in things like herbal teas and chocolate.
- Hunger: The bottom line is you don’t want to go to bed hungry, but you don’t want to be too full either. I try not to snack at night after dinner, but if I do, I go for a single-serve bag of 94% fat-free popcorn, a skinny cow fudge pop or a few clementines or mandarins. Frozen grapes are great for taming those sweet cravings, too.
- Stress: This an area I hope to manage better this year. I recently read somewhere it’s a good idea to write down all your worries an hour before getting into bed. Whether it’s the to-do list for the next day or some project that’s been on your plate for awhile, writing things down gets the worry “out there” and you can deal with it in the morning. I find the nights I write in my journal (which I’ve been keeping since I was 12!) helps me unwind more than the nights I don’t.
- Shutting Down: If you scan the Internet, you’ll find plenty of research on how watching TV in bed and using smart phones and other portable devices can be overstimulating when your body is trying to wind down. Aim to power down at least 30 minutes before closing those tired eyes for the night.
Remember, if you’ve made the commitment to workout and watch what you eat, you owe it to yourself to give your body time to rest and recharge. It’s all part of the winning formula to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!