So, you’re set on losing weight, you know what you should eat and you’ve found the answers to your weight loss questions. The diet is working well for you and it seems like all your goals and dedication will finally come together to bring the desired outcome. But there’s one crucial factor that we forget all too often: sleep.
Seemingly, it has nothing to do with diet and exercise so it’s easy to completely overlook it in your weight loss journey. But because it’s such a fundamental process that regulates your body, sleep actually plays a major role in weight loss – and weight maintenance. So major, in fact, that you should be thinking about it right now.
How sleep affects weight
Thousands of people worldwide suffer from insomnia, but even more simply don’t get the amount of sleep they should be getting – without acknowledging it as a problem. It’s become commonplace in our busy lifestyles that we sacrifice sleep.
But when you get less than 8 hours of the z’s per night, you’re more likely to lean on sugary drinks and snacks for energy. The body’s metabolism slows down and works less effectively. Moreover, lack of sleep dulls the activity of the brain’s frontal lobe. This affects your decision-making and impulse-control, making it more difficult to resist cravings. The exhaustion also makes you crave high-calorie foods as “rewards”.
Here’s the most obvious fact that shows how sleep affects weight: insufficient sleep impacts hunger and fullness hormones called ghrelin and leptin. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body produces more ghrelin, which signals that it’s time to eat. On the other hand, production of the fullness hormone, leptin, plummets. With this scenario, you’re hungrier throughout the day and prone to overeating. But your mental clarity is too blurred to suppress your appetite. On top of it all, it’s more difficult to be physically active when your body is low on energy from the start.
How natural supplements can help
All said, there’s no doubt the majority of us need to dedicate some effort to improve our sleep. Some have problems falling asleep each night and others want to regulate their cycle to get the optimal 8 hours. Either way, people are leery of prescription medication for sleep because of their notorious side effects and the risk of addiction. That’s why an increasing number of people who’re trying to lose weight are turning to natural supplements for a sleep aid. Here are some healthy and natural supplements for anyone struggling to regulate their sleeping pattern.
Chamomile tea is the most common herbal sleep aid. People usually drink it before bedtime to promote calm and restfulness. It’s very mild so it can be used on a daily basis.
Magnesium is a mineral found in spinach, Swiss chard, almonds, dark chocolate, black beans, avocado, bananas, etc. It helps calcium get to the bones but removes calcium from the muscles. That makes it a very powerful muscle relaxant so it helps people relax and get ready for restful sleep.
Magnesium has soothing qualities when taken before bedtime. If you do eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods and still struggle with sleeping, don’t be surprised: caffeine reduces the levels of magnesium in your body. That’s why people turn to various magnesium supplements to improve sleep. They’re a safe way of upping your daily dosage of the mineral and can really help with drifting off, as well as sleeping calmly.
Valerian root is another common herbal sleep aid. It promotes strong sleep and helps drift off quickly because it soothes the nerves. But it’s not a very gentle aid and it doesn’t work the same for everyone.
Many people find that taking valerian root in any form before sleep makes them feel groggy and drowsy in the morning. That’s the most common side effect, which is very similar to prescription medication. So if that’s the way you react to it, it’s best to avoid it.
The leaves and roots of some passionflower varieties are used to make teas and supplements that treat insomnia and anxiety. It’s a very popular herbal sleep aid and various clinical trials show it generally has no side effects. However, tests were not run on pregnant women so it’s necessary to consult a physician first if you’re pregnant.
Also known as Indian ginseng, this herb has long been used in Ayurvedic healing for various conditions. It comes from the Withania somnifera species – somnifera meaning “sleep-inducing” in Latin. Today, organic ashwagandha supplements are commonly used to help induce restful sleep. They are also used to treat nervous conditions, hormonal imbalance, and to increase resistance to stress and fatigue.
Lemon balm and lavender are also versatile herbs that help promote calm and restfulness. A sprinkle of lavender essential oils on your pillow can have a therapeutic and calming effect. That brings us to the last point: improving our sleep requires conscious effort to achieve so-called “sleep hygiene”. Natural supplements can be of great help, but it’s important to also create a peaceful sleeping environment.
Bedtime rituals can also help prepare your mind for bedtime. That can be meditation, aromatherapy baths, writing in a journal to relieve thoughts, and finally, drinking herbal tea. Try to plan your ritual a bit earlier so you can go to sleep earlier and gradually gain control of your sleeping pattern. Try these methods and sleep aids to find what works best for you. You won’t regret it – and you’ll be happy to see the positive effect on your weight.