So what's the easiest AND hardest way to lose weight?
You guessed it -- sleep.
We've all heard it a million times, "get your 8 hours of sleep for long-term health, blah blah blah." It's like the dental hygienist telling you to brush gently for 2 minutes twice a day and always remembering to floss.
We get it in theory, blindly nod our heads and then proceed to file it in away in the "that would be nice to do some day folder" and forget about it.
So let's try another tactic. Sleep can make you slimmer, trimmer, skinner.
Sounds pretty easy right? Yeah, but who has the time?
It should be a no brainer.
Sleeping your way to skinny, spending less time at the gym and more time in bed and voilà!
But the go-go-go pressures of our modern-day society and surge in technology over the last 20 years has re-programmed our brains, reward mechanisms and habitual patterns to resist the classic 8 hours.
We all have our "sleep skimping" story
I used to be the queen of 6am workouts. My alarm would go off cheerily at 5:30 or 5:45am every single day of the work week. I'd literally spring out of bed so excited for (pick one, I did 'em all, almost every week): Monday's 6am Barry's Bootcamp, Tuesday's 6:30am Joanna's Equinox Bootcamp, Wednesday's 6:30am Personal Training Sessions with Erika, Thursday's 6:30am Jack Rabbit Track Running Training Program along East River and Friday's second Personal Training Session.
Just recalling my old workout schedule and writing this all out makes me want to curl up and catch up on years of missed sleep.
However, I truly loved the workouts and I still do. It was magical walking out of my apartment to a class or training session and being one of the first people to hit the quiet early morning city streets. Early morning workouts were my very special time of day where no one bothered me and I could just think. Pretty darn precious for NYC, right?
My mom used to plead with me to pick just one day of the week where I would set the alarm for 7 or 7:30am, "sleep in" and do things "normal people do," like prepare breakfast, slowly eat it while reading the newspaper, putter around my apartment for a bit getting ready and deciding my outfit, leisurely walking to the subway and getting to my cubicle by 9am.
Now, that seemed absolutely ludicrous at the time. Skip my workout?! Change up my routine!? Never.
Instead, this was a typical morning for me before my day at the office when working in Finance:
6:30-7:30am bootcamp --> 7:30-7:45 shower at Equinox --> home by 8am --> blowdry hair, throw on matching pencil skirt suit outfit, jewelry, make-up --> make my breakfast of eggs or green protein shake --> throw in tupperware to bring to my work desk --> out the door by 8:33am or ELSE.
Phew. Talk about a stressful morning!
Word on Early Morning Workouts
I'm not saying to throw away your early morning workouts. I think they're great!
Working out in the morning is super effective for staying on track with your exercise routine, starting your day off right, acting as a stress-reliever, giving yourself seriously good energy and vibes for the day and so much more.
But if you're like my old self, and have an intense workout routine on top of a stressful and demanding job, I encourage you to think through the below ideas on how you can add more sleep and rest in to your life and see even great physical results from your efforts.
Sleep and Hormones
Sleep triggers some pretty darn cool chemical reactions within your body. This article goes in to great detail, but here's the quick and dirty.
A full night sleep releases Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in to your blood stream, which helps maintain healthy body tissue and allows your muscles to repair themselves after a solid strength training session. More lean muscle mass on your body = elevated resting metabolic rate (aka more calories burned per day) = room for weight-loss. Give those muscles sleep to grow baby!
Leptin and Ghrelin. Ah those confusing cousins I could never quite tell apart. Here's a mnemonic I used for myself in nutrition school that may help:
Leptin is an appetite-suppressing hormone (think it "L"owers your appetite), but "L"ess of it is produced when you don't get a good night sleep. Therefore your not only cranky, but hangry and tend to want more food the next day.
Ghrelin is an appetite-stimulating hormone and makes your stomach "Growl" that it wants more food; more of Ghrelin is produced if you're sleep deprived.
I won't even get in to women's hormones and our sleep-skimping stories ... but please, stay tuned for another blog post on this one! Intense workouts, missed periods, cortisol spikes, weight gain, digestive issues ... the list goes on. Intrigued? Start googling.
Now. Don't beat yourself up about this. These hormones are our bodies' way to keep us alive and protected when we're out in the wild, forced to go on long marches for food and need to be reminded to seek berries, or whatever we could forage in the forests. But our ancient ancestors didn't have cheap food, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, or quirky and comforting NYC bodegas on every corner tempting us to eat, eat, eat!
Now, back to your Sleeping Beauty Plans
I invite you to pick one of these sleeping tips out of my magic hat. Or better yet, read through them all and see what resonates with you tomorrow, or later this week. That's the one you know you should try out for yourself:
- A Sleep Weekend, hooray! Make absolutely no plans. Repeat: No plans. Come home from work Friday night, turn off your electronics, get to bed strangely early (7, 8, 9pm is totally cool and OK! No FOMO!). Don't be surprised if you wake up Saturday, eat breakfast, and then feel like going back to sleep. Honor your body's cues and take that second nap on the couch! For people who are chronically sleep-deprived during the work week, it's recommended that they schedule in a "sleep weekend" every 4th or 5th weekend.
- A Sleep Day. Can't swing a full weekend? Pick a Friday night through Saturday afternoon and test out the above.
- One Morning with No Alarm: For those of you with flexible schedules, this is a cool one to try M to F. Otherwise, try it on the weekends. I used to almost ALWAYS set an alarm (I mean, Saturday morning Zumba, c'mon!) and the anticipation of the shrill noise can lessen the quality of your sleep or make you anxious for your wake-up time. Sometimes I "back-end" my alarm to modify this practice on a Saturday/Sunday. I'm fairly certain I'll wake up between 7:30am and 9:30am, so I'll set an alarm for 10am for a "worst-case scenario."
- A Zen Morning: Pick a weekday morning and change it up. Instead of rushing off to the gym or work, set aside an hour or 90 minutes to totally shake up your routine. It's going to feel .... strange. Like you are on some yoga retreat or on vacation in Europe. Brace yourself. You will survive. You may even enjoy it. Try yoga or light stretching on your home yoga mat with candles and light music, take a bubble bath, write in a journal or take yourself out on a solo breakfast date to a real restaurant and bring along the NYTimes.
- Sick Day: To all the bosses out there (and my old bosses), don't kill me! For the record, I did this twice during my six year career in Finance and I wish I had the nerve to have done it more. Your body, not your boss, knows when you need a break. In fact, I bet for some of you reading this right now, your body is SCREAMING for a rest and "Mental Health Day". Call in sick and sleep. The world won't end.
- A One Week Vacation without Coffee: Ummm .... does that count as vacation? Yeah, I know, there are a lot of addicts out there. Try to plan one vacation a year where you can cut back on the caffeine and nap when you need to nap. When I would get to 3.5-4 cups of coffee a day, I knew I needed my one week yearly re-set. Maybe have a baby cup of coffee each morning while you're away, but otherwise cue in to your signals for naps, going slower and full nights of deep, caffeine-free dreams.
Finally, please remember that everything I listed above won't actually magically come in to your life after you pulled it from my magician's hat. You have to plan for these sleep-more strategies.
If you've gotten this far reading this post, I'd bet that you're desperately in need of some loving sleep or deeply intrigued by the concept of "sleeping your way to skinny."
Want to talk more about those sleep issues and last few pounds? Book a session with me here in the Bookings tab.
I wish you all the best switching up your sleep strategies and the sweetest of dreams!
Sleep success?!? I'd love to hear about it, tell me more here!