“That we are not much sicker and much madder than we are is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural graces, sleep.”
Week 1: Exercise
Week 2: Eating
Week 3: Walking
Week 4: Learning and Applying
When I initially started on my lifestyle transformation, I thought that losing weight and getting healthy would mean I had to change what I ate and I would have to be more active. One aspect that I didn’t give enough attention to at first was sleep. As a matter of fact, I thought that if I was going to really get in shape, I would have to sleep less because I was going to have more demands on my schedule with my added workouts. I have found the opposite to be true. I have had to adjust my sleep a little to make sure that I am well rested and have enough energy for both my daily job activities and my workouts.
This cannot be overlooked. Sleeping helps to regulate your hormones, which promotes faster fat loss. I don’t want to recreate the wheel, Mark Sisson breaks it down here.
Some key concepts I have learned regarding sleep and weight loss.
1. You need to get 7-8 hours of sleep/night. This is a non-negotiable. If you’re going to be more active, you are going to expend more energy. If you’re going to expend more energy you’re going to need more energy. One of the main ways this happens is by allowing your body time to recover by getting adequate sleep. One side benefit of losing weight for me was that I slept better. So, I didn’t really need to sleep any longer than I was, because the quality of the sleep I was getting was better.
2. Get a sleep schedule and stick to it. If you get 7-8 hours that is great. But, if they aren’t coming close to the same time regularly, those effective hours will be minimized. I know there are a number of demands life throws at you. But, if losing weight and getting in shape is a priority for you, you have to be willing to make getting on a regular sleep schedule a priority. I find I have less energy, am less motivated, and eat worse when I am not following a regular sleep schedule. I try to be in bed no later that 10:30pm. This will mean that I will be asleep around 11pm. I then try to make sure that I am awake by 7am. I have found that I have the maximum amount of energy when I stick closely to this schedule. I am not as strict on the weekends, but if I’m not out on a weekend night, I try to stick closely to my schedule. Again, if losing weight and getting fit is important to you, you have to make it a priority. For teachers, this is especially difficult in the summer because its so easy to stay up late (more on this in the next point). When I stray from my sleep schedule, that is the first sign is I stay up later. I used to think sleeping in was my downfall, but honestly, that’s just a byproduct of staying up later. It takes discipline and is hard to go to sleep on time, that’s why people don’t do it. But, it is critical to your weight loss success that you be in a regular sleeping schedule.
3. Don’t sleep in. I used to sleep in all the time. As a teacher, I would spend my summer breaks getting up somewhere between 9 and 1030. What a waste. And, not only was I wasting a huge amount of time, I would feel lethargic for most of the day, and it was easy to be really unproductive because by the time I was ready for the day it was almost noon. Contrary to popular opinion, sleeping in does not give you more energy or make you feel more rested. Getting on a regular sleep schedule, eating correctly, and being active are the keys to better sleep and feeling more refreshed. Again, it takes more discipline, so because of this many people will choose to sleep in because it’s easier. But, doing things the easy way is one of the main ingredients in the recipe to be unfit and unhealthy.
4. Be okay with taking naps. When you expend more energy you will need more recovery time. Especially during the summer, if you’re a teacher, and on the weekends, make sure you are getting enough rest once you start being more active. Naps should be short though, no longer than 30-40 minutes. I don’t nap as much as I should, but I have found that when I rest midday, I always have more energy. I am working on learning about this. The best advice I’ve heard recently is from Dewey Nielsen, one of the leading strength and conditioning coaches in the country. He said he has trained himself to sleep for 20 minutes when he naps. He said he originally started by setting a timer for 20 minutes and then refusing to open his eyes until the timer went off. He said after a few years he no longer needed the timer, he would just wake up at 20 minutes. This is going to the strategy I try this week.
If you are having trouble sleeping, check this post for some tips on how to improve sleep. Again, I know this doesn’t seem like something I should be talking about in a post about how to lose weight, but it is critical to your overall success.