Getting Enough Zzz’s

Most people know to get enough sleep, but during this time of the year, busy lifestyles, erratic work schedules, and even new children (and pets) can keep you from getting the sleep you need. Current research now shows a connection between having good nutrition (and health) and sleep. So the question is … do you get enough?

‘Enough’ can be described in different ways, but usually describes anything more than six hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation may also not be intentional — it could be related to disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. New studies have emerged that bridge the connection between health/wellness and sleep.

Evidence linking sleep deprivation to weight gain was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showing the “relationship between partial sleep deprivation and excess fat make [sleep] a factor of interest in body weight regulation, particularly in weight loss.” Another study showed a possible link between type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and sleep disruptions/short sleep. Appropriate sleep habits may open the door to the prevention and treatment of these conditions.

Sleep disturbances may also affect the hormonal regulation in the body, resulting in increased appetite and a decrease in physical activity. This may lead to poor choices the next day, such as overeating or skipping our workout.

The main message from these studies is to get adequate sleep (more than six hours per night for adults). Though the science is somewhat unclear at this time, one thing remains true — lack of sleep is definitely linked to reduced nutritional health.

Worried about how to get enough sleep? Set a routine. Bedtime routines should always include a few minutes of downtime such as reading a book, chatting with your family, journaling about the day, or meditation. Experiment with soothing chamomile tea or lavender essential oils, as they have been shown as effective sleep aids. As hard as it might be, keep the phone and texting out of bed; and avoid exercise, television, and the internet shortly before bedtime.

Getting the sleep you need not only can help you focus throughout the day, but also optimize your body for a healthy eating regimen and lifestyle. So rest up and happy eating!
Adapted from an article by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Zach Breeding, MS, RDN, LDN.