Sleep Is The Key To Clearer Thinking, Better Decisions and Lower Weight

Do you wake up feeling groggy in the morning or feel sleepy by mid afternoon? You're not alone! A recent National Sleep Foundation Poll showed that a majority of adult Americans experience sleep problems. That's not surprising given our world of non-stop emails and texting and 24/7 access to news and entertainment.

As a society, we have been staying up later and later and it's taken a toll on our ability to rest and rejuvenate ourselves.

This can lead not only to brain fog, decreased creativity and ability to make good decisions, but also to weight gain and weight loss resistance. On the flip side, getting between 7 and 9 hours of restorative sleep a night can actually help you think more clearly, make better decisions and lose weight.

Some interesting facts:

A recent University of Chicago study showed that people getting less than 8 hours of sleep per night craved more carbs and sugar and ate 250 more calories per day. That can add up to two or more pounds per month!

Researchers at Berkeley found that sleep deprivation shuts down the prefrontal cortex of the brain, affecting the ability to make good decisions.

California researchers found that REM sleep (the cycle of sleep when dreams typically occur) boosts creativity.

Sleep researchers at Hershey Medical Center report that if you lose a night's sleep, your mental performance is similar to someone who is legally drunk.

A University of Pittsburgh study revealed that after just 2 nights of poor sleep, Leptin (the hormone that tells you you're full) levels dropped 18%, and Ghrelin (the hormone that increases hunger and cravings) levels increased by 28%.

So, what can you do to get better sleep? Incorporate the following tips:

1) Give Yourself an Electronics Deadline- Turn off or at least stay away from all cell phones, t.v.s, and computers for 2 hours before bedtime. The blue light that they emit tells our brain that it is daytime and affects our ability to fall asleep.

2) Cut the Caffeine- Limit yourself to one caffeinated drink in the morning. Caffeine can interrupt sleep even if you have it a full 8 hours before bed.

3) Nix the Alcohol- A nightcap can help you feel sleepy, but it results in a less deep sleep and leads to more frequent waking during the night.

4) Keep Your Bedroom Cool and Dark- cooler temperatures and darkness activate melatonin, the sleep inducing hormone.

5) Challenge Your Beliefs - Sleep researcher Dr. Olga Stevko found that the #1 reason women had trouble sleeping is the limiting belief that whatever they do is not good enough. If this resonates with you, each time you find yourself thinking this thought, stop and replace it with "I don't have to be perfect. I am trying my best and that IS good enough."

6) Turn in 8 hours before your morning wake-up time- most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, so be sure to give yourself enough time for adequate rest. Schedule sleep time into your daily calendar and you'll be more likely to do it. Keep your bedtime and wake-up time consistent, including week-ends. Trying to catch up by sleeping in on the week-end can throw off your internal clock and make you even groggier.

7) Block external noise- a sound machine that simulates falling rain or produces white noise can solve the problem of outside traffic or barking dogs.

8) Keep your bedroom a work-free zone- a stress free area will help you to relax come bedtime.

9) Exercise! But not too late in the day- exercise, especially cardio, improves the length and quality of sleep. Just make sure your work-out ends at least 4 hours before bedtime, so that the natural body temperature elevation that accompanies exercise has time to decrease and does not interfere with sleep.

10) Stay in bed if you wake up at night- keep lights off and try some slow, deep breathing or imagine a peaceful place. If you still can't get back to sleep, do something quiet and relaxing, like reading or gentle stretching.

If you are getting 7 -8 hours of sleep each night and still feel tired during the day, speak to your doctor, who can determine if you may have a sleep disorder or other underlying condition that may be interfering with your sleep.