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Sleep: the missing link to your weight loss struggles

We all think exercise and diet are the keys to weight loss. While that is largely true, sleep is an often overlooked component to health and wellness that could significantly affect you ability to lose weight. According to the National Sleep Foundation "a 1999 study at the University of Chicago showed that restricting sleep to just 4 hours per night for a week brought healthy young adults to the point that some had the glucose and insulin characteristics of diabetics." That statistic was eye-opening for me! Sleep can effect our metabolism in ways that are extremely detrimental to our health. Research also indicates that sleep can affect other hormones involved in our metabolism like leptin. Leptin is a hormone that stimulates our appetite. When we sleep leptin increases which in turn decreases our appetite. Lack of sleep results in too little leptin which tells your brain that you are hungry, even though you may not actually need food. Furthermore, your body then converts the extra calories you then eat as fat so you'll have plenty of energy in reserve.

Perhaps all that exercise and focus on your diet is being sabotaged by lack of sleep or lack of quality sleep. Maybe the next time you sacrifice sleep for an early morning workout you may want to reconsider. Sleeping in may be more beneficial than the exercise if you are sacrificing sleep in order to make exercise happen. Try following these recommendations set forth by the National Sleep Foundation to improve your sleep quantity and quality. It might be the last piece of the weight lost puzzle that you've been searching for!

National Sleep Foundation recommendations:

1) Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
2) Enhance circadian rhythms by avoiding stimulating activities like screens or exercise an hour before bed and try waking to bright light in the morning.
3) If you can't sleep go to another room until you feel tired. The bedroom should only be used for sleep and sex. Doing otherwise will confuse your body.
4) Stick to a sleep schedule even on the weekends.
5) Exercise daily but avoid exercise in the late evening. Exercise increases body temperature. Around 6 hours after exercise a drop in body temperature occurs that then triggers sleep.  Exercise late in the evening is stimulating and doesn't allow for the drop in body temperature that will trigger sleep.
6) Keep the temperature to between 60-67 degrees. This mimics the drop in temperature from exercise and triggers sleep.
7) If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps that last for more than 40 minutes.
8) Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. Meditation or progressive relaxation techniques can all help induce sleep.

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