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February 11, 2013
10 Tips for Better Sleep
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So many of the people I talk with have difficulty getting enough sleep. Most folks understand that limiting caloric intake and getting sufficient exercise are critical elements to weight management. Sleep, however, seems to fall under the radar, but research has shown it plays a vital role in weight management.  If you have difficulty catching enough z’s, give these ideas a try:

1. Set a specific bedtime. Many people have no idea what time they should go to sleep or how much rest they truly need. Set a bedtime for yourself. Aim for 7 to 8 hours. If you have to wake up at 7:00 am, staying awake until 1:30 each night just won’t cut it.   If you have chronic problems getting to sleep on time, set a specific wake up time (yes, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays ARE included).  This will eventually regulate your going-to-sleep time.

2. Eliminate distractions. Shut the blinds, turn off the TV, block the lights from your computer. Sleep with earplugs in if you are prone to waking easily at the slightest noise. Eliminate as many distractions as possible.

3. Maintain a comfortable temperature. Setting the thermostat so that your room is a little chilly is a good way to keep from waking up overheated. Also sleeping with socks or a hat on can you keep from waking up cold (even if it is a bit dorky).

4. Make a list of everything you need to do the next day. This can be a big help if you find yourself waking up at night, preoccupied with thoughts about everything you have to do.  Simply taking a few minutes to jot down thoughts or the next day's tasks before you go to bed can relieve the need to replay in your mind all the tasks that await you in the morning.

5.  Exercise. People who exercise fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, and this is particularly true for people who have trouble sleeping.

6. Wind down the work day an hour before bedtime. Try to stop yourself from checking emails or working before you go to bed. Doing any work right before bedtime is stimulating mentally and even emotionally. Instead, spend an hour deliberately relaxing and “unplugging”.  Anything involving a video display stimulates your “awake centers.”  Try reading a book or magazine (yes, they still make them).

7.  Relaxation techniques. A hot bath, soothing music, deep breathing, stretching, progressive muscle relaxation - any of these things can help you physically and mentally relax, and the more relaxed you are, the easier it will be to fall asleep.

8.  Avoid food, alcohol, and water before bedtime.  Avoid consuming food or beverages 3 hours before bedtime. Alcohol can make you feel drowsy but prevents you from falling into deep states of sleep and causes you to wake up when the effects of the alcohol wear off.

9. Tell yourself, “I have to get up now.” If you frequently wake in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep, try this: imagine that you just hit the snooze on the alarm and in a minute, you’re going to be getting up to start your day.  Mentally rehearse the motions of getting up, turning on the lights, getting dressed, etc. Often this is an exhausting enough prospect to make you fall back to sleep.

10. Reframe your sleeplessness as an opportunity to gain some extra time. If you occasionally find yourself waking up and unable to return to sleep a few hours before the alarm goes off, sometimes the best thing is to just get up and start your day. You’ll have accomplished a lot before your usual wake-up time, and while you may be more tired that day, you will probably find yourself going to bed earlier and getting a solid night sleep.

So snooze well, wake refreshed and lose weight!

Written by Madeleine Lewis

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