Exciting new research suggests it’s okay to hit your snooze button.
Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar has found that losing as little as 30 minutes of sleep per day during the week can have serious long-term consequences including weight gain, giving us one more valid reason to sleep in.
The study involved 522 patients who each completed seven day sleep diaries and monitored their weekday sleep debt. Participants who logged fewer hours of sleep during the week were 72 per cent more likely to be obese compared to those getting enough shut-eye.
What’s really frightening is that by the six month mark, sleep debt was significantly associated with obesity and even insulin resistance.
Lead study author Professor Shahrad Taheri believes these findings apply to thousands of people worldwide. “Sleep loss is widespread in modern society, but only in the last decade have we realized its metabolic consequences,” Taheri said.
“Our findings suggest that avoiding sleep debt could have positive benefits for waistlines and metabolism and that incorporating sleep into lifestyle interventions for weight loss and diabetes might improve success.”
Here are five ways to reduce sleep debt for good:
1. Do a tech cleanse
“Blue light emitting devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops have the ability to significantly disrupt our sleep or make falling asleep harder,” says Lana Eyeington, clinical exercise physiologist and sleep scientist. “The illumination throws our biological clock out of whack and suppresses our natural ‘sleepy’ hormone, melatonin.”
While the popular recommendation is to simply remove technology from your sleep zone, Eyeington says it’s best to disconnect at least 90 minutes before you even step into your room.
2. Set a routine
Studies show that constantly changing your PM schedule can wreak havoc on your ability to reach a deep level of sleep.
To combat crazy schedules, Professor David Hillman, Chair of the Australian Sleep Health Foundation says establishing a night-time routine is paramount. “Read instead of watching TV or try a relaxation exercise to wind down,” he says. “Your internal body clock, which programs your night-day sleep-wake cycle, will thrive on it.”
Post-sundown isn’t the only time you can set a routine to benefit your sleep habits though, says Janella Purcell, nutritionist and Lifestream ambassador. “Make sure you get plenty of natural sunlight during the day. This signals the brain to produce melatonin.”
3. Tweak your diet
Purcell says magnesium is a great supplement to support sleep. “It’s an essential mineral involved in muscle relaxation as well as energy production,” she says. “Signs of magnesium deficiency include difficulty sleeping in and waking up early.”
Experts also agree that minimising caffeine will benefit your chance of getting good shut-eye. Eyeington’s approach is to taper your caffeine intake throughout the day.
“Start with your biggest dose first thing in the morning and taper down by lunchtime,” she says. “Caffeine has a half-life of approximately six hours. That means it takes six hours for only HALF of the caffeine to be metabolised by the body!”
4. Give your bedroom a makeover
We hear it time and time again: make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary! But Eyeington says bedroom faux pas are still quite common.
“Keep your study or desk space separate to your bedroom and use an analogue alarm clock,” she advises.
Hillman agrees and says that small physical changes to your sleep environment can have a powerful impact. “Make sure the bedroom is a comfortable, quiet, dark sanctuary for sleep. The act of going to bed is a powerful cue for the body – the bedroom should be reserved for sleeping and sex.
5. Make a sleep list
If you find you toss and turn at night thinking about all the tasks you need to complete, Purcell recommends starting a sleep list.
Keep a pad and pen next to your bed and incorporate it into your nighttime routine. Write down all the to-do’s you need to unload, plus some points you at grateful for. “It’s a great way to empty the mind,” she says.
If you experience chronic tiredness and lethargy contact your GP for tailored medical advice.
Images via The Telegraph