What if in order to lose weight and lead a more healthy and balanced lifestyle, the remedy was not necessarily less food, but more sleep? Most people aren’t aware that a lack of sleep does a whole lot more than just make you tired; lack of sleep is associated with blood pressure problems, heart problems, diabetes, weakened immune system, and more recently, decreased metabolism and increased body weight.

And believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be an extreme amount of lack of sleep either; according to The Endocrine Society, even losing as little as 30 minutes of sleep per day during the week “can have long-term consequences for body weight and metabolism.” So what is a girl to do? Get her beauty sleep!

The Truth to Beauty Sleep

Although we have all heard the term “beauty sleep” before, it does has some actual scientific proof behind it. In fact, your skin produces collagen while you snooze, which makes your skin plump and less prone to wrinkles and sagging. Increased blood flow to the skin also gives it a youthful, healthy glow, and achieving enough sleep helps to reduce black bags and puffy eyes. And going more than just skin deep, getting enough sleep also has an influence on your metabolism and maintaining a healthy weight. When your body is lacking sleep, it produces the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for stimulating alertness, but also stimulates appetite. The more sleep deprived you are, the higher your cortisol levels.

And since sleep deprivation is also associated with anxiety, depression, and stress, the likelihood that you will reach for unhealthy comfort foods – foods that stimulate the release of the pleasure endorphin, serotonin – over healthier options to curb your increased appetite is a lot higher. Furthermore, sleep deprivation interferes with the body’s production of the hormones ghrelin (stimulates hunger) and leptin (indicates satiety), where ghrelin is increased and leptin is decreased. Finally, sleep deprivation also causes your metabolism to slow down in order to maintain or conserve its resources. All of these factors contribute to increased eating, unhealthy food choices, and weight gain.

3 Ways to Improve Sleep Quality

    1. Environment

Your sleep environment is important. This should include a comfortable mattress – ideally a memory foam mattress that is available from companies such as this, as mattresses designed with springs tend to put added pressure on the points where the body comes into contact with the mattress, which reduces blood flow and prompts pain, stirring, and waking. The environment should also be quiet, dark, and relatively cool (somewhere around 68°F or 20°C), as noise and heat will also stir a sleeper out of a deep slumber. Light, on the other hand, will make it more difficult to fall asleep, as it throws off the body’s natural melatonin production and release, which is the hormone responsible for stimulating sleep.

    1. Exercise

Of course recommending exercise for weight loss is nothing new under the sun; however, exercise plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including helping you to sleep better. Physical exercise actually releases endorphins that relieve stress and depression, helping your body to naturally relax, leading to a lot more restful nights and energetic days.

    1. Lifestyle

And naturally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle in general is also key to better sleep quality. This includes a healthy diet full of vitamin and mineral rich foods, and consuming very little sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, and of course other junk foods. It is also important to have a good, ritualistic schedule, which includes going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. This routine not only ensures that you prioritize those 7-8 hours for sleep, but the repetition also helps to stimulate your body to be ready for sleep during this time frame.