Does this sound like you? You’re eating right. You’re working out. And you’re making a little dent in that belly fat, but it’s not coming off as fast as you’d like.
If so, here’s another little hack that might help you trim that belly faster: Get more sleep!
I’ve been telling you for years that sleep is important, but I know it’s hard to get enough snooze time when you’re juggling tons of chores or you want to relax after a long day. It’s tempting to sacrifice an hour or two of sleep so you can meet a work deadline, do another load of laundry, or watch your favorite late-night show.
But here’s the deal: While a few days of shortened sleep won’t do you permanent harm, constantly cutting down on your zzzz’s can pack extra pounds on you and even raise your risk for diabetes and heart disease. Here’s some of the latest research:
- A new study involving more than 1,600 adults found that people who slept six hours a night had more belly fat than those who slept for nine hours. In addition, they weighed more and had lower levels of HDL cholesterol (the heart-healthy “good cholesterol”). This was true even though the sleep-deprived people didn’t eat unhealthier diets.
- An earlier study found that shorting sleep for just a few nights in a row can lead to immediate weight gain.
- A startling study in 2012 revealed that restricting the sleep of healthy young people for just four nights decreased the sensitivity of their fat cells to insulin by 30%, leading to levels typically seen in obese or diabetic people. One of the researchers commented, “This is the equivalent of metabolically aging someone 10 to 20 years.”
- A recent study involving more than 4,000 children found that kids who get too little sleep weigh more and have a higher percentage of fat mass. Worse yet, these children have higher blood sugar levels and greater insulin resistance—both risk factors for diabetes.
In short, if you want to keep that belly slim and lower your risk for diabetes and heart disease—and if you have a partner or kids whose health is important to you, too—then sleep needs to be a priority for your entire family.
How to Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment
I know it can be tricky for adults and kids alike to transition from a busy day to a restful night. Here are 12 strategies that can help:
- Set a regular bedtime—for both kids and adults. It’s fine to fudge a little on the weekends, but otherwise, try to turn in at the same time each night. Research suggests that simply sticking to a bedtime schedule can actually lower your body fat.
- Make Epsom salt baths a habit. The magnesium in Epsom salt is one of Mother Nature’s best “sleepy medicines.” Putting a little lavender oil in your bath water can also help mellow you out.
- Turn off devices at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light from these devices can mess with your melatonin levels. If you can’t bring yourself to turn them off, invest in blue light-blocking glasses.
- Meditate. Fifteen or twenty minutes of mindful meditation can ease your brain into a restful state.
- Darken your room. Install blackout curtains to get rid of light pollution, and turn your alarm clock away from the bed so the light it emits doesn’t shine in your face.
- Experiment with a “white noise” machine. Many people find these highly effective.
- Chill out. Keep your room between 65 and 72 degrees. Also, try sleeping with a fan on. (The “white noise” from the fan can also help to mask other sounds.)
- Do strenuous exercise in the morning or afternoon—not at night. Exercising vigorously before bedtime can rev you up, making it hard to doze off. Instead, try some gentle yoga stretches.
- Make a to-do list. This will help you clear your mind before bedtime.
- Indulge in high-quality bedding. The right pillows, sheets, and blankets can make a huge difference in how comfy you feel at night.
- Drink bone broth in the evening. Bone broth is rich in calming, relaxing glycine and magnesium.
- Consider taking melatonin. A little dose of this supplement before bedtime may help you fall asleep faster and sleep longer.
Try these tricks, and I’m betting that you and your family members will fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. As a result, you’ll all be happier, more energetic, and more clear-headed when you wake up… and you’ll all be shrinking that belly fat and protecting yourself against diabetes and heart disease as well!
Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!