Mind. Body. Spirit.
Improving Sleep Quality for Mental Health & Weight Loss: 9 Tips to Follow
Blog By: Mind, Mouth and Movement: Connecting the Missing Links
By Nancy Lum, RDN and Dawn O’Meally LCSW-C, P.A.
We all know that getting enough sleep is important for our overall health, but did you know that it can also play a role in weight loss? Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight or obese. So, if you’re trying to shed a few pounds, improving your sleep quality should be a top priority. There is a known correlation between lack of sleep and weight gain. Studies have shown that people who get less than the recommended amount of sleep per night (7-9 hours) are more likely to be overweight or obese. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for our overall well-being. However, depression and anxiety can make it difficult to get the rest we need. Sleep deprivation can exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety, leading to a vicious cycle of poor sleep and increased symptoms.
This is due to several factors.
First, lack of sleep disrupts the hormones that regulate appetite. The hormone leptin, which signals to the brain that the body has had enough to eat, is decreased by lack of sleep. At the same time, the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, is increased. The result is that people who are sleep-deprived tend to feel hungrier and eat more, leading to weight gain.
Second, sleep deprivation can lead to decreased energy levels and motivation to exercise. People reach for energy drinks loaded with caffeine and simple carbohydrate snacks to boost energy. When people are tired, they are less likely to engage in physical activity, which can contribute to weight gain.
Finally, lack of sleep can also lead to an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol, which can cause the body to store fat, particularly in the abdominal area.
Nine tips to improve your sleep while dealing with weight, depression, and anxiety.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Your body has an internal clock that regulates your sleep-wake cycle, also known as your circadian rhythm. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule can help regulate this rhythm and improve the quality of your sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine can help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This could include taking a warm bath, reading a book, or practicing meditation or deep breathing exercises. Avoid stimulating activities like watching TV or using your phone or computer, as the blue light emitted by these devices can interfere with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. These blue lights stimulate your retina and make your brain assume it is still on, therefore the brain does not get the recovery time it needs.
- Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable. Your sleep environment can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep. Make sure your bed is comfortable and supportive, and that your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in blackout curtains or a white noise machine if necessary.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake. Caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try to avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening and limit your intake overall. Similarly, while alcohol may make you feel sleepy initially, it can disrupt your sleep later in the night and lead to poorer sleep quality overall. Alcohol is also a depressant and interferes with anti-depressant medications working properly.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, as well as overall health and well-being. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week, but avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as this can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
Improving your sleep quality can be a simple but effective way to support your weight loss goals. By following these tips, you can help regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and ensure that you’re getting the rest you need to feel your best. Exercise is also a natural anti-depressant, anti-anxiety strategy and has been shown to be as effective as medications in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
- Seek professional help. If you’re struggling with depression and anxiety, it’s essential to seek professional help. A mental health professional can help you develop coping strategies and provide treatment options that can improve your sleep and overall well-being. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be particularly effective in treating sleep disturbances related to depression and anxiety.
In conclusion, getting enough restful sleep is critical to our overall health and well-being. By establishing a sleep routine, creating a restful sleep environment, limiting caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake, exercising regularly, and seeking professional help, you can improve your sleep despite experiencing depression and anxiety symptoms.
- Supplementation There are natural supplements that can be utilized to foster better sleep such as:
Melatonin, which helps regulate the circadian rhythm, however, do not take this for more than 3 months as it will decrease your body’s ability to produce melatonin naturally. Magnesium, Ashwagandha, L-Theanine, Passionflower, chamomile, valerian root are all examples of natural supplements that can aid in better sleep. Please see a medical professional before deciding on these supplements.
- Alpha-Stim AID Alpha-Stim treats anxiety, depression, insomnia by using a patented microcurrent called cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES). The treatment is very simple and easy to use by attaching ear clip electrodes on the ear lobes to the handheld device. For many people one treatment alone can produce a significant difference in sleep the very same night. For more information and to test the Alpha-Stim contact Dawn O’Meally LCSW-C, P.A. at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) CBT-I can help you control or reduce /eliminate negative thoughts and behaviors that may be keeping you awake and making it hard to initiate sleep. It is generally recommended as a first line psychological treatment for people dealing with insomnia. Typically, CBT-I is equally or more effective than sleep medications without causing any side effects.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2019). Depression. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
National Sleep Foundation. (2021). How to sleep better with anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-anxiety/how-to-sleep-better-with-anxiety
American Psychological Association. (2019). Exercise fuels the brain’s stress buffers. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise
CDC. (2021). Sleep and Sleep Disorders. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Sleep and Weight Gain: What’s the Connection? https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/sleep-and-weight-gain-whats-the-connection
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2021). Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep