Welcome to Episode 5 of Q&A Monday! Today we talked about getting good sleep and also weight gain when it seems like you’re doing everything right. Two topics I get asked about a lot! Check out my thoughts on these subjects below for some tips and tricks to getting good sleep and keeping the lbs off! Keep sending in your Qs and I’ll answer them in my future Q&A Monday live events!
Let’s dive in.
- Any tips for getting a good rest? I find myself waking up for an hour or so every night. Thanks!
I’ve been getting this question a lot lately. Maybe it’s the nerves around the pandemic or just the change in everyone’s schedules, but sleep, as we all know, is very important! So, let’s sort this out. First and foremost, when it comes to sleep, I want you to actually think about what you are doing the 3 or so hours before your head hits the pillow. Those hours (and even earlier) can have a great impact on how you sleep that night.
Things to avoid within 3 hours of going to bed:
- Caffeine (actually should avoid up to 6+ hours before bed – not recommended after 1-2pm in the afternoon)
- Food – heavy or sugary/processed foods
Your body has to work hard to digest and this can disrupt sleep. So any heavy food can really burden your system and make it hard to sleep soundly. Additionally, sugary foods can give your system a bit of a rush, similar to caffeine which can also disrupt your sleep pattern.
Avoid over-consuming liquids – especially alcohol, and definitely any beverages with caffeine in them
- Rigorous exercise
This can activate your endorphins (think “runner’s high) and this can take hours and hours to slow down making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
- Screens (within 1 hour of going to sleep)
While it may be impossible for most to skip screens for the last three hours before sleep (though this would be best!), shoot to not look at a single screen (blue light!) within 1 hour of going to bed. Finish your “Netflix and chill” or your Instagram scrolling and those late night work emails at least 60 minutes before bed. As we all know, this stimulates the brain to think it is day time, and disrupts the natural circadian rhythm that takes us to a sleep state.
Things to be sure you do within 3 hours of going to bed:
- Have a (healthy) light snack
If you eat dinner earlier, and you feel you need it, have a light snack (at least 90 minutes before you plan to go to bed). Make sure it is light, easy to digest food that has some health value. This can be a few cups of popped popcorn lightly seasoned with sea salt, or a piece of fruit – think apple slices with cinnamon or dipped in a little bit of almond butter, some veggies and hummus etc. Keep it light and reasonable, but this should help tide you over so you don’t wake up during the night hungry and keep your blood sugar balanced while you sleep.
- Have a nightly routine
Create a preferred “bed time” and do your best to stick to this schedule every night so you can create a circadian rhythm for your body to follow. If you are all over the map when you go to bed and get up, it will be harder for your body to have a consistent, sound sleep. If your target is to be asleep by 10:30pm, then you back into that knowing by 7:30 you should enact the above “avoids” list every day, and by 9/9:30, you should be winding down, putting away/turning off screens and getting yourself ready to be in bed. I recommend getting yourself fully ready (put on what you plan to sleep in, brush your teeth/wash your face and complete your personal hygiene routine) and grabbing a book or a quiet activity or hobby like sudoku or crossword puzzles or work on a puzzle or sketching, any other quiet activity in a low light room. By 10:15 or earlier, I would be in bed, lights out with some white noise or a guided sleep meditation on. If you must read in bed, I recommend investing in a low light emitting light bulb and keep the lighting very, very low while reading.
- Consider a magnesium supplement
Magnesium is the new supplement du jour for better quality sleep. Lack of magnesium in our systems can lead to difficulty in sleeping, staying asleep and the quality of our sleep when we are asleep. Check out this article for more information about the science behind it. If you are magnesium deficient, this could be a game changer for you. Magnesium can also help with anxiety and depression – so it can be a win-win! The Institute of Medicine suggests a daily dietary intake of 310–360 mg of magnesium for adult women and 400–420 mg for adult men.
**Do your research before taking the most common “natural” sleep-aid, melatonin. There is newer research that shows it can do more harm than good, especially if using a moderate to high dose or long-term use. So read up first before making this a part of your daily routine.
- Check your mattress!
Are you waking up a lot because your limbs are falling asleep or your back hurts or you are just plain uncomfortable? Might be time to invest in a new mattress and /or pillows. A good mattress can be the difference between being healthy and being well. Truly!
- Keep your room temp lower at night
Your bedroom should be at 68 degrees (or cooler) for a good rest. If you’re getting too warm at night, this will also throw off your sleep rhythm. In summer months, if you do not have AC, consider ways to get air moving in your room at night. If it’s safe to have a window open during the night hours with a fan moving the air around, this can help. Sleep in natural, lightweight sheets. Do whatever you can to keep the temp low.
- 4-7-8 breathwork
Breathe in for 4, hold for 7, breath out for 8. This is one of the best techniques to get your body in a sleep state. It actually mimics REM sleep, so give it a try to help you fall asleep when your head hits the pillow (I often fall asleep while doing this breath technique) and use this if you wake up during the night to get back to sleep.
- Remove all technology from the bedroom.
No TVs, computers or phones of any kind should be in the bedroom. If they have to be for whatever reason, they should all be turned off at night and not near your bed. NO bluelight should hit your face from at least 60 minutes before bed until you wake up in the morning. DO not pick up your phone during the night if you wake up. It is literally the worst thing you can do as much as you crave the distraction. The bluelight makes your body think it’s daytime. AVOID, AVOID, AVOID! If you need white noise during the night to fall asleep, have a noise machine/clock by your bed (you can get them on Amazon for under $50!). These are great because they also have a built in sunrise/sunset feature, too to get your body ready for bed and slowly wake with light in the morning.
- I’m in my forties (female), working out daily, feel like I eat a pretty balanced and healthy diet and yet I have put on a few pounds and they aren’t going away no matter what I do. What gives?
Great question! I have been dealing with this myself, so I can relate. Here are a few things to consider:
- How intensely and how often are you working out?
If you have increased your intensity, frequency or type of exercise, you may be gaining lean muscle mass which weighs more than fat. If this is the case, the few extra pounds are nothing to worry about. Consider how your body feels in clothes. With my for example, my clothes all still fit, but I’ve noticed places like my thighs and my glutes are bigger due to cycling that I have added in my regular routine, so they are a bit more snug in my pants, but my waste-line still seems about the same. This is a sign I’m gaining muscle mass, not necessarily fat.
- How are your hormones?
As we get into our 40s, some of us are starting to experience hormonal changes and possibly imbalances as we approach peri-menopause or menopause. If you haven’t recently, check in with your doctor and have bloodwork done to see where you stand. If they are out of whack, even by a little, this could be causing a little bit of weight gain which wouldn’t really be impacted by diet or exercise. As women age and estrogen levels drop, this impacts lean muscle mass which is the calorie burning hub of your system, and therefore some extra LBs can tack on. This means we have to work a little harder with our diet and our exercise to keep the pounds off. I know, it’s not fair, but it’s how our body organically moves through our life stage, so embrace it and use this as a time to level-up on your health!
- How is your thyroid?
Again, as above – good to check in with your PCP and have a wellness blood panel taken to make sure everything is in check, including your thyroid. If it is off, this can cause unexplained weight gain, even if you’re doing everything right. Once you know, then you can do what you need to do to address if there is a problem. Also, if there are imbalances in your thyroid, consider working with a Functional Medical Practitioner in your area and/or a naturopath that specializes in thyroid disease as there are LOTS of natural/herbal and dietary ways to address without going on medication.
- What are you really consuming?
As much as I don’t recommend counting calories (ever), I do recommend keeping a food diary with what you eat/drink, the time you eat/drink and how much (in size, not calories). I recommend doing this for a least 7 days. Just keep it in the notes section on your phone or a food tracking app or simply in a little notebook you keep with you. Be VERY diligent for this week to keep to your normal routine and write it ALL down. NO JUDGEMENT! The reason for this (I know because I have done it myself and seen it) is that we often times are over-consuming to some extent somewhere. For me it was the constant little passes in the kitchen and grabbing yet another handful of nuts. Seems harmless in the moment, but when I started adding it up, I realized I was really adding in a lot of unnecessary calories throughout the day through these little hits here and there. You’ll also be able to note portion size and also what time of day you seem to over-consume so you can start preparing to make better decisions. Beverages count, remember! Are you having coffee with any added fats/sugars? Are you having any other sugary beverages like soda, alcohol, flavored/sugared teas etc.? These things can sneak in and really throw your caloric intake over the edge. I realized for me, my portion sizes were practically matching my husbands! AND, I was snacking even more than him and we got in the habit of having something sweet every night. So for me, not only had I gained a lot of lean muscle mass, I was also adding a little fat with these sneaky little habits. Nothing to feel bad about (especially given quarantine!), but something to be aware of so you can start making simple little tweaks.
- Are you drinking enough water?
Water is life! Especially if you’re working out a lot, you must be sure you’re drinking enough water. It will help flush out toxins and help with your fat-burning desire. If you’re dehydrated, your body is going to hold on to everything it can to keep you alive and safe. Drink up – but don’t guzzle. Drink throughout the day! Once you’re dehydrated, you’ve already deprived your system, so set reminders on your phone, keep a jug of water on your counter that you commit to finishing by the end of the day, but spread it out! Be sure to be “sipping” throughout the day, not guzzling to “catch up”.
All in all, in my decades of experience helping past clients, friends and family as well as myself, the culprit is almost always what is being consumed (if nothing is biologically off with your systems) so even when we think we’re doing everything right, there is likely something(s) going in that might be causing the issue such as sugar sneaking in, empty carbs, too much fat etc. I highly recommend charting your food for the 7 days as mentioned, and working with a health coach to unpack what you may be doing that is causing the extra weight, as well as providing helpful remedies and suggestions to get you back on track to living your best, healthiest life!
That’s it for episode 6 of Q&A Monday (now monthly!). Don’t forget to send me your Qs! Keep them coming anytime you think of something. I plan to cover 2-5 every month (varies depending on the topic as some, like this month, have a lot of A to the Q!). Don’t forget to check the blog for the archives of Q&A Mondays to see past responses to some of the most asked questions I get!
Have questions about how I work as a coach and how I may be able to help you with your mind and body health and wellness? You can contact me here! I look forward to hearing from you!
And of course remember, love always wins!
Becky…with the good life