There are few things that feel better than getting a good night’s sleep. And few things worse than lying in bed with insomnia. At the Mountain Trek Health & Fitness retreat we spend time talking about the importance of sleep for every aspect of our lives – how it affects our belly fat to how it impacts our metabolism. In the copy and videos below, program director Kirkland Shave offers a small sampling of our “Insomnia Busters” lecture, which gives you tips for sleeping better.
As we get older, getting deep, restful sleeps begins to take priority over a night out of socializing and there’s a good reason for this. Not the passive state many people once considered it to be, sleep is now known to be a highly active process during which the day’s events are processed and energy is restored.
Sleep is an integral factor in living a well-balanced, healthy life full of vitality. Most studies show that the average human needs between 7 and 9 hours. And science is increasingly showing us that sleep deprivation and poor sleeping habits affect both our body’s AND our brain’s ability to function properly. You want to function at peak capacity? You want your memory to serve you? You want to lose belly fat? You want your sex life to be full of vitality? Then sleep better! Here are three videos that describe exactly how to sleep better.
How to Sleep Better Around Electronics
In this video Kirkland discusses electronics and their impact on us, especially right before bedtime. It’s only been in the past 30 years we’ve been using personal computers, cellphones and other devices with displays that feature the white-blue colour spectrum. This light is similar to the daytime sky and by staring at them, our cortisol remains high. When the sun sets the colour spectrum changes to red/orange and our melatonin is prepared for release but by staring at our devices, our brains and our bodies are not ready for sleep.
How To Sleep Better Through Diet
Our diet is also related to Insomnia Busters. So often we see advertisements claiming that how to lose belly fat is simple because you can lose weight while you sleep. If that were truly the case, then we’d all just be sleeping and shedding off pounds. But we’re not. If we want to counteract weight gain and lose belly fat, then we want to examine what our diets are right before bed. If we are eating late at night, we’re keeping our bodies in the process of digestion and not letting our stomach, liver, pancreas and all the other digestive organs rest, which they need at the beginning of the night. So try to cut back on your food intake and try not to snack in the evenings because unless you’re going to be active, you’re just going to store that food anyway. And that is definitely not how to lose belly fat.
Another thing that affects our sleep is alcohol. As much as it’s delicious with a meal, it can impact our bodies negatively if consumed on its own and before bed. Firstly, alcohol is a muscle relaxant so it causes many people to snore. Secondly, the liver converts alcohol into acetate, which is a form of vinegar, and that process will disrupt our sleep about 2-3 hours in. Also, many people may not know this but all alcohol has calories (even the hard stuff) so, the more you consume, the more belly fat you have, unless you’re working out right before bed to counteract the weight gain.
Finally, let’s talk about caffeine. For about a third of the population, caffeine is a cortisol stimulant. (Cortisol is the hormone that awakens us.) We don’t want to increase cortisol in the evening because it will override the sleep beckoning hormone melatonin.
The last section of this “Insomnia Buster” mini-lecture discusses stress. To help with insomnia we have to do something about managing stress. Relentless stress day after day causes our hormone Cortisol to stay elevated and Cortisol will always override our sleep hormone – Melatonin. Some of our stress is a result of organizational thinking. Trying to remember what’s on your plate the next day – picking up the kids, getting to the board meeting on time, dinner party with the in-laws. All that’s orbiting around in your brain before bed and you’re not going to allow the unconscious part of your brain to drop until you deal with it. So get out your day timer or your phone and plug those things into your calendar and then your unconscious brain can let go of all those things orbiting around.
The other form of stressful thought is concern about our own self or others – it’s more of an emotional form of thinking. These too need to be released from the unconscious part of the brain through typing or writing in a journal. It may sound silly but the act allows our unconscious brain to let go of its vigilance and then cortisol will drop. You can empty your mind and allow Melatonin to seduce you into sleep.