Sleep is paramount for optimal physical, mental, and emotional health.
Before we begin, let's get one thing straight. There is absolutely no one perfect shape, size, of weight for everyone. Every individual has a unique body metabolism, body shape, and optimal weight. And there is absolutely no need to fit into media standards of ideal weight or shape. While you may choose to work on your body, your health and happiness is of paramount importance, not fitting into clothes or small sizes.
Now that we have that sorted, let's look a rather interesting belief. The more you sleep, the lazier you are and more likely to gain weight. While there definitely is a link between less physical activity and weight gain, recent studies reveal how important regular sleep is for better metabolism, immunity, and overall wellbeing. But here's where things get all the more interesting. Regular and optimal sleep can help you lose weight! According to Dr Michael Breus, aka the Sleep Doctor:
"Contrary to what many people think, sleep is not an inactive state. During sleep our bodies are doing lots of important work—repairing cells and tissues, restoring full, healthy function to our immune system, consolidating memories and rebooting the neural cells and networks of the brain. We’re burning calories the whole time. For a 150-pound person, the estimated calorie burn over a 7-hour night of rest is just over 440 calories. That’s a 40-minute jog on a treadmill!"
"BMI is a measure of general obesity, and it does not discriminate between fat around the hips or the waist," said the study's lead author Sanne Peters. "Yet, compared to fat around the hips, fat around the waist is more metabolically active, is closely related to insulin resistance, and maybe more strongly associated with the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes."
According to Psychology Today, while we sleep, our bodies are still quite active. They're busy "repairing cells and tissues, restoring full, healthy function to our immune system, consolidating memories and rebooting the neural cells and networks of the brain." All of this helps burn calories. However, in order to burn further calories and especially around the belly, here are some simple methods.
1. Go to bed earlier
Staying up late can lead to weight gain in two ways. One, the more time you spend awake fighting your natural sleep cycle, the timespan your body craves food becomes longer. This is why you find an urge for a late-night snack. By going to bed earlier, you can remove that temptation. But more importantly, research suggests that lack of adequate sleep can lead to weight gain through other factors as well. According to the study done by Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, less sleep can lead to:
(1) psychological distress, (2) more sensitivity to food reward, (3) disinhibited eating, (4) additional energy needed to sustain extended wakefulness, and (5) changes in hormones regulating appetite.
2. Bask in the early morning sun
Stepping out to take in early morning light can help your 24-hour circadian rhythms stay on track. Exposure to natural light in the morning can help decrease melatonin and thus keep you alert and active through the day. As a result, your energetic state will help you burn more calories during the day. “Light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance,” said Dr. Phyllis C. Zee, after conducting a study to link morning sun and weight loss, according to Women's Health Northwestern Institute. “The message is that you should get more bright light between 8 a.m. and noon.”
3. Limit blue light exposure at night
According to Healthline, melatonin (a hormone produced by the pineal gland) tells your body when it's time to sleep. Much like how daylight helps you in the morning, exposure to unnatural light (especially blue light produced from LEDs, fluorescent lights, and electronic screens) can disrupt your natural sleep cycle. By dimming the lights an hour or two before bed and not using your electronic devices as you are getting ready to sleep can help balance the hormones, which in turn can lead to better sleep.
4. Sleep in the nude
Sleeping naked is more beneficial than you might realize. This can help you regulate your nighttime sleep temperature and enable quality sleep, while encouraging the body to reset and increase the production of calorie-burning fats. The melatonin that is released as you sleep also increases a "good fat" called brown fat, according to Medical News Today. The function of brown fat is to metabolize calories by generating heat to keep you warm at night. Simply put, this brown fat causes you to burn more calories while sleeping.
5. Keep your bedroom cool
Did you know that when you sleep in a cool bedroom, your body works that much harder to stay warm, in turn burning more calories, according to the Sleep Doctor? It's actually similar to sleeping nude. Additionally, a room that is cool (62-68 degrees Fahrenheit) can help you sleep better by giving you the ability to fall asleep faster and wake up less throughout the night, thus leaving your body metabolism undisturbed as it works. Cool temperatures also increase the body’s capacity to hold beige and brown fats, also known as the “thinning” fats that burn calories.
Having said that, let's remember that every woman needs to put her health and happiness first. There is no ideal weight, size, or shape to live up to, and our body is our home until the moment. Self-love and celebrating oneself is probably the best practice even if we chose to have fitness goals.