So many Americans struggle with sleep, and as many as 70 Million (or more) people struggle with sleep deprivation and chronic sleep loss. Why is getting sleep so tough — especially when we’re so tired and burnt out?
It turns out that we may just not be in the habit. While sleep is a fundamental human need, we potentially have conditioned ourselves to get by with less (even when we need more!). The antidote? Restarting our routines — creating habits around sleep (read: a solid bedtime routine) plays a central role in improving sleep health, and improving sleep hygiene is a fundamental part of supporting fitness and wellness goals.
Ahead, more on why getting adequate sleep is crucial, plus some simple before-bed habits that aren’t only beneficial for sleep but surprisingly weight loss-friendly too.
RELATED: 21 Ways to Beat Burnout When Taking Time Off is Difficult
Sleep Is More Important Than You Think
Yes, of course, we know that sleep is important — just like eating healthy, drinking water, exercising, and so on. But why is sleep so important? And not just any old sleep — but quality, deep sleep?
Sleep & Mental Health
Sleep protects your mental health, mood and helps regulate stress levels (particularly when it comes to mental illnesses, imbalances, and mood disorders). Sleep deprivation does the opposite. Consider: the more energy and positivity you’re channeling, the more you’re likely to get after your workouts and health goals.
Sleep & Hunger Hormones
Sleep helps regulate your hunger hormones (ghrelin and leptin), allowing you to be more in tune with your body’s needs. By missing out on Zzzs, you’re likely to snack more, crave more, overeat, and make less healthy dietary choices.
Sleep & Immunity
Sleep regulates your immune system and can help you recover better from your workouts. In essence, everything you’re working on will be enhanced if you make sure you’re getting adequate sleep.
As you can see, it’s not just a matter of not being groggy and coffee-dependent the next day; sleep really does impact every single area of our health in so many ways (and this is just the tip of the iceberg).
Before-Bed Habits For Weight Loss
You don’t have to have a 75-step bedtime regimen (nor an elaborate beauty skincare routine!) to get your brain and body ready for rest, regeneration, and restorative sleep. Ahead are five simple tweaks you can make to your habits in order to get your sleep back on track while also supporting your fitness and wellness goals.
#1 Make Dinner & Your Evening Snack Bedtime Friendly
Did you realize that how — and what — you eat at the end of the day can affect your sleep quality and your circadian rhythm? A few bedtime-friendly pointers for your dinnertime and night-cap plans.
Don’t Eat Too Close to Bedtime
Though research on this topic has yielded truly mixed results, a big meal before bed could affect your metabolism and your sleep quality in a negative way. Give your body time to digest so you can sleep well.
Eat a Protein-Rich Dinner
Higher levels of protein intake have been associated with improved sleep quality, meaning a tempeh salad, grilled salmon filet, or chicken-quinoa bowl is an ideal dinner to help you nod off. (Bonus: increasing protein intake may help you reach your weight loss goals!)
Try a Sleep-Inducing Dessert
As for that nightcap — you’ll want to skip the stiff drink and make dessert a kiwi-tart-cherry smoothie (or something with either of those ingredients) instead.
According to some research, kiwi may help you fall asleep sooner, stay asleep longer, and reduce any midnight disturbances, thanks to antioxidants and serotonin. And tart cherries have been heralded for as a recovery-promoting, slumber-inducing superfruit, thanks to melatonin.
The takeaway? The best foods to eat before bed for weight loss (like kiwi’s and tart cherry juice) happen to be equally as delicious as they are healthy. But remember to give yourself time to digest — ideally enjoying that kiwi-tart-cherry smoothie a couple of hours before you hit the hay.
Here’s a delicious tart cherry smoothie recipe to try.
Restful Slumber Tart Cherry Smoothie
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1/2 cup tart cherry juice
- 2 tbsp rolled oats
- 1 frozen banana
- Drizzle of honey to taste
Step #1: Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.
Step #2: Pour into a serving glass and enjoy!
#2 Prepare For Tomorrow
This tip is twofold: you’ll create a nighttime ritual that will cue your brain to start winding down, and you’ll prepare for a healthy tomorrow. Here’s what you’ll want to consider doing:
Prep Nourishing Food
Prep breakfast (make a smoothie bag, overnight oats, chia pudding, or chop up some veggies for a scramble). Also, consider meal planning or prepping for the next day, writing down what you want to eat for each meal.
Have Your Workout Clothes Ready & Schedule Your Workout
Fold up your workout clothes and place them near your bed so you can get up ready to rock-n-roll, no matter how groggy you are. Next, schedule your workout — plan what you want to do, and choose a time. Then block off that time, so you’re undisturbed.
Get Your Morning Beverage Prepped
Queue up your coffee and water (stay hydrated!), getting your machine ready with a big bottle of water nearby.
Jot Down Your Goals
Write tomorrow’s goals for exercise, nutrition, hydration, and self-care (maybe even an intention if you’re feeling *spicy*).
#3 Unload Your Busy Mind
There’s a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) technique called constructive worry, in which you write down everything that might be bothering you (concerns) and what you might be able to do about it, if anything (this includes simply letting go!). The idea is to get these worries out of your head and do something about them instead of letting them fester, fuel anxiety, and keep you up at night. In that vein, consider a “brain dump” journal, in which you take everything from your mind out and into written form, putting pen to paper.
If journaling doesn’t jive with you, you can unwind and unload your mind with a FitOn meditation right in the FitOn app — we’ve got plenty of nighttime audio tracks to help you relax and clear your head.
#4 Step Up Your Sleep Hygiene
Sleep Hygiene Can Start in The Morning!
This includes: Getting up at the same time each day, getting sunlight for 30 minutes within an hour of waking, and sipping on some oolong tea. One study showed that oolong might be a better version of caffeine than coffee, that won’t interfere with sleep!
As for your before-bed habits, try these three for starters:
Take a warm bath or shower(some studies have shown that this improves your body’s readiness for sleep).
Prepare a cool, dark room, cue “sleep time” for your brain and body with thermoregulation and light blocking.
Turn your phone off — no screen time for at least an hour before bed. That extra blue light at night will trick your circadian rhythm into thinking it’s daytime, making it harder for you to fall asleep.
#5 Set a Bedtime Routine + Alarm
Using all of the above that you’ve learned, give yourself an hour to get ready for bed (use any of these or any of your own sleep hygiene techniques to include in this hour). Put your phone away, get your journal out, make that tea, and ensure you’re not just hopping in bed and expecting to fall asleep — this could leave you tossing and turning.
By creating these habits and routines, you’ll start to fall asleep — and stay asleep — on autopilot. Habits are powerful, and they can make or break your health progress, so by mindfully taking control of these habits, you’ll not only get better shuteye, but you’ll be making tracks toward your other health goals, too.
If you’re still struggling to sleep after trying the above techniques, it’s time to chat with your physician to make sure you aren’t facing any underlying conditions or roadblocks to a good night’s rest. After all, you deserve good sleep — so let’s make sure nothing is standing in your way!