The Importance of Sleep, with Tips for Getting ZZZ's

  • 3 Minutes Read

Consistently meeting your calorie budget, getting in at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week and still not seeing weight loss results? Consider taking a look at your sleep habits.

The Importance of Sleep, with Tips for Getting ZZZ's

Getting enough sleep is central to weight management and overall health. Sleep allows our mind and body precious down time for healing and rejuvenation. Research has shown that adequate sleep improves our ability to learn as well as keep our immune system healthy. Sleep deficiency on the other hand, increases risk for heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. And when it comes to weight, getting enough sleep is critical to having a healthy metabolism and managing body weight. Individuals who consistently sleep less than 6 hours a night are at greater risk of having a higher than average bmi. There are several factors at play when it comes to the impact sleep deprivation has on body weight. From a hormonal level, individuals with a shorter sleep duration have lower leptin levels and elevated ghrelin levels. Ghrelin levels rise when someone is chronically sleep-deprived, thus stimulating appetite. Leptin is a hormone produced in the body that creates a sense of fullness. Without adequate leptin, you may be eating more because your body is lacking the signal to stop eating. For optimal health it is recommended that adults get between 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night. If you are currently averaging around 5-6 hours of sleep a night, you may see a weight loss benefit from changing some things around for a better night's sleep. Read on to learn about some simple lifestyle changes they may improve your sleep.

Electronic Devices

Many of us are aware of the need to turn off our electronic devices in order for our brain to prepare for sleep. How many of us actually follow through with this? Nighttime exposure to light can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Phones, computers and even some energy efficient lighting produce a type of light that contains a higher percentage of blue wavelength light. This type of light is beneficial during the daylight hours (in fact starting your day on the computer may help you wake up naturally) yet not so much after the sun goes down. Too much of this light can decrease the body's secretion of melatonin. Melatonin helps control the sleep and wake cycle. The body naturally produces more melatonin about 2 hours before bed and yet blue wavelength light can suppress the body's natural secretion of melatonin. Try turning off electronic devices at least 1 hour before bed. This time could be used for reading, taking a bath, doing yoga or writing a letter to a friend! In addition, try switching to red or pink light bulbs in your bedroom. Red wavelengths are the most conducive to sleep.


Research has shown that those individuals who are engaged in physical activity fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. If you have been sedentary lately, try adding small amounts of activity back into your routine. Taking a walk after dinner is a great way to add in some movement and unwind from the day. Also, walking after dinner can help lower blood sugar and help to ward of Type 2 Diabetes. Another option is to take a walk during your lunch break. There is some research to show that exposure to natural light in the middle of the day promotes better sleep at night.

Essential Oils

Looking for a natural way to unwind? Try using a diffuser in your bedroom and filling it with relaxing essential oils. Lavender oil is a well-known aromatherapy oil with relaxing properties. Try turning on your diffuser before going to bed and running it throughout the night.

Warm water therapy

Taking a warm bath is a great way to relax the body and the mind before sleep. It works by raising the body's core body temperature initially, and then gradually dropping it back down. This shift in temperature may promote sleepiness. For additional relaxation, try adding a few drops of lavender oil to the bath or sipping a mug of chamomile tea (an herb known for relaxing properties) while soaking. If a bath is not available to you, soaking your feet in warm water for 15 minutes may be a reasonable alternative. Plus your feet will be nice and clean before getting into bed.

Additional information

Quality sleep may seem like a bit of a luxury, yet it is important for optimal health and weight management.

Flux: An app that slowly shifts away from blue light on the computer at night and then increases the background light in the morning.
iPhone night shift mode: This is an option loaded onto your iphone (available with ioS 9.3 update) under settings that automatically adjusts the background display so the phone gives off warmer light with less blue wavelengths.

Other Health Issues->Sleep
May 2, 2017
Joanna Kriehn
Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDE - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)

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