If you are eating healthy and exercising meticulously, yet still struggling to lose weight, lack of sleep may be your missing link. That's because when you don't get enough sleep, your body produces more ghrelin, the "hunger hormone." Ghrelin encourages you to crave sweets. In contrast, getting enough sleep encourages your body to produce more leptin. Leptin will help you feel full.
In my experience, many of us are aware that sleeping is important, but we don't actually put that knowledge into action; most of us are way too willing to give up a few hours of sleep in favour of watching TV, working or socializing.
And, in some cases, wanting to sleep and actually being able to sleep are difficult to reconcile. After a long, fast-paced day – filled with too many screens – the body can have a hard time relaxing.
The important thing to remember is that making any lifestyle change, including getting more sleep, is an active process.
It doesn't just happen; it takes a real desire to change (versus just the knowledge that the change is "good for you"), dedication, mindfulness and perseverance.
Use these five tips to make sleeping – like brushing your teeth or drinking water – a non-negotiable part of your routine.
Train your body and brain to know when to sleep with a presleep routine
Try turning off all screens at least 30 minutes before bed.
Next, do something that is relaxing. Have a bath (an Epsom salt bath can be especially relaxing), meditate, or do some deep breathing, gentle yoga, stretching, or lie on a foam roller.
A foam roller is a long, cylindrical object made of dense foam. Lying on it lengthwise with my arms out to the side and breathing helps me relax and release my achy and tired muscles.
Consider drinking a soothing sleepy-time herbal tea such as chamomile or a tea with valerian root in it.
Last, persevere; don't give up when your first bedtime ritual doesn't work. Keep experimenting until you find what works for you.
No explanation needed. Make a conscious effort to sit less and move more throughout your day.
Get over the "I don't have time" or "I am too busy" excuses
"I don't have time" is the grown-up equivalent of "the dog ate my homework."
If you justify not sleeping because you are "too busy," ask yourself: Are you too busy because you put other people's needs ahead of your own and prioritize helping others instead of getting enough sleep?
Are you too busy because you haven't taken the time to rearrange your schedule? Are you simply trying to fit too many things into one day?
Always acknowledge the life choices that you make. And think about what you need to do differently in the future to ensure that sleep can be a priority.
Be selfish about your sleep
You might think you are doing the people in your life a favour by not sleeping and catering to their needs, or you might think your life will be better if you relax in front of the TV until 3 a.m. instead of sleeping, but you will be a much more productive, kind, patient and happy person if you sleep!
When I want to watch TV or stay out too late instead of sleeping, I tell myself, "Kathleen, the future Kathleen will be happier if she has had seven hours of sleep. Be an adult and make the healthier choice. Get to bed."
It doesn't always work, but I am consciously trying to make the healthier choice more often than not.
Don't get frustrated
You didn't form your sleeping habits in one day; they will not change immediately, either. Simply aim to trend positive: Aim to get more sleep this month than you did last month.
One final thought, always remember that if you let it, life will always take over. So, don't let it.
Commit to figuring out how to make sleep a priority.
Kathleen Trotter has been a fitness writer, personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for more than 12 years. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter @KTrotterFitness.