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Leading a healthier lifestyle isn’t just about exercising regularly and eating right — sleep plays a big part too.

If we don’t catch enough zzzs, we may find it challenging to stay active and eat healthy the next day. Let’s find out how sleep could impact our efforts to get healthier, and learn some tricks to sleep better.

Snooze to Lose

How does lack of sleep affect our health? Research suggests that when we don’t sleep enough, we’re more likely to choose fatty, sugary, high-calorie foods over more nutritious options. We’re also more likely to overeat.

To our sleep-starved brain, that upsized deep-fried chicken combo meal may seem much more appealing than a balanced meal of steamed fish, stir-fried veggies, and brown rice.

Lack of sleep could also put us off exercising. After all, it’s difficult to drag our tired bodies to the gym when we feel sluggish from lack of sleep.

Here’s the kicker: even if we continue to eat well and exercise, lack of sleep can affect how our body uses glucose, making it more difficult to lose weight!

So, how much sleep should we be getting? Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Quality of sleep counts too! A good sleep is when we wake up refreshed, and don’t feel lethargic in the afternoon.

Here are some tips to get enough good quality sleep.

Get Your Body Moving

Having a good night’s rest gives us the energy to exercise the next day. It works the other way too: turns out, exercise can help us sleep better!

How? During exercise, our body temperature increases. A few hours after our workout, our body temperature drops, telling our body that it’s time to sleep. In short, exercise makes us sleepy.

To make the most of this post-workout drowsiness, exercise at least three hours before bedtime. But don’t work out right before bed as it’ll make you more awake.

Slower, relaxing exercises like Tai Chi and Qigong could also help you snooze better.

Coffee, Tea, or Me?

Your mid-afternoon kopi could affect your sleep later at night — caffeine’s effects can last up to six hours. That means if you had your coffee break at 4.30 pm, you might find yourself wide awake in bed at 10.30 at night.

This doesn’t affect everyone, of course. But if you’re not sleeping well, cutting that mid-day kopi might help.

Why not try replacing your afternoon cuppa with herbal tea like chrysanthemum or ginseng? As a bonus, the switch will also reduce your sugar intake.

In the Mood for Sleep

Follow a relaxing routine before going to bed. For example, take a hot shower, listen to calming music, or read a book.

The point is to separate your bedtime from other more exciting or stressful activities (e.g. stimulating video games or loud movies) which could make it harder for you to fall asleep.

Similarly, avoid using electronic devices before bed or in bed: the light from our phones and laptop keeps us alert, and could disrupt our normal sleep patterns!


References

  1. Diet, Exercise and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.
    Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/diet-exercise-and-sleep/page/0/1

  2. Medicines in my Home: Caffeine and Your Body. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
    Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/downloads/UCM200805.pdf