Hit the pillow first!

Despite evidence that being “overweight or even “obese” is not in itself unhealthy, many of us continue to try to lose weight.

If one does this the wrong way — with yo-yo diets or hitting the gym improperly, it could be totally fruitless.

According to recent studies published in the Journal of American Medical Association and the Lancet, lack of sleep can slow your metabolism thereby decreasing the odds of your losing weight.

Scientists have determined that two hormones — ghrelin and leptin — are affected by sleep patterns.  So what is the function of these hormones? Ghrelin makes you feel hungry, and leptin gives you the feeling of fullness.

Inadequate sleep causes ghrelin levels to increase and leptin levels to decrease.  This is a double whammy.  On the one hand, you feel hungry and experience cravings and reach out for junk food laden with sugar and on the other hand you do not experience satiety even when you have eaten a full meal.

Another player in this hormone battle is cortisol.  Stress or lack of sleep can cause cortisol levels to rise and again this leads to increases in hunger and cravings.  Not only this, excess cortisol has been linked to fat and this fat is stored around the middle section.  
So, how much sleep is enough sleep?

In order to keep your hormonal balance, you should try to sleep seven to nine hours each night. Ask yourself these questions:

Do I have difficulty falling asleep?
Do I wake up a lot during the night?
Do I wake up too early in the morning and then can’t go back to sleep?
Do I feel tired when I wake up?

If you answer “yes,” to any of these questions, you may need to take a long hard look at your sleep routine before you try to shed some kilos at the gym. Here are some easy ways to establish a healthy sleep routine:

Avoid caffeine-rich drinks before bedtime.  You may be surprised to know that      carbonated drinks and sports drinks have caffeine.  Opt for a glass of warm milk.

Have a regular bedtime.  In other words, try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. It is important to follow this rule even on weekends. You should strive to fall asleep within ten minutes of going to bed and wake up at the same time without an alarm. Most of us watch TV before bed.  Given the content, this is not a good idea. Try instead to relax by taking a short warm bath or shower.

Complete darkness — no flashing clocks or mobile phones — aids sleep.  It has been scientifically proven that darkness promotes the secretion of the beneficial hormone melatonin.

There is nothing worse than going to bed angry.  Make your peace with everybody so that you are truly relaxed and not mulling things over.

So, good night!  Sleep those pounds away!

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