A good night’s rest is more than a dream, it’s a necessity for the body to function at its best. Poor sleep can lead to weight gain and metabolic disruption. And imbalances like these can lead back to less restful sleep. Throwing these two elements—metabolism and sleep—off-tempo can lead to a vicious cycle that’s hard to get back on the beat.
But you can do something about it! And we’re not talking about new pillows and ambient noise machines—though certainly try whatever you like to enhance your sleep. But also consider that there are a handful of healthy daytime habits that can naturally lead to better metabolism and better sleep—benefitting the body in myriad ways.
24/7 Metabolic Processing
You’ve probably heard that sleep is a magical time when the body renews important pathways for optimal functioning. All sorts of metabolic processes are regulated in different ways during wakeful hours and sleep hours. Neurotransmitters send messages throughout the body to dictate how certain processes are carried out, including energy management, appetite, and glucose regulation. Disrupted sleep (whether by shortening sleep hours or failing to get quality, restful sleep) leads to disrupted metabolic processes.
Of course, sleep doesn’t actively increase metabolism. In fact, metabolism actually slows down (about 15 percent) during quality sleep. But this slow-down is vital—it allows the body to focus on resting, repairing, and restoring the functioning of integral systems, like digestion and glucose management.
With that said, the lack of proper sleep can disrupt metabolic processes and the body’s overall balance of working systems. It’s no surprise then that research has linked chronic sleep deprivation to higher stress levels, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, increased appetite, and weight gain.
Daytime Activities Serve Double Duty
Everyone’s body is different, and some of us are working with greater challenges than others. But the good news is that metabolism and quality sleep aren’t entirely out of your control. In fact, there are many things you can do during the day to help improve your metabolism, which in turn can ensure a better night’s rest.
Some of these lifestyle changes serve double duty, meaning they positively impact both your metabolism and your likelihood of enjoying good, quality sleep. Better metabolism and better sleep? That’s a win-win.
Here are a few positive daytime activities to adopt if you’re interested in getting the most bang for your buck and cashing in on both better metabolism and better sleep.
Better Food, Bigger Lunch
Greasy, fatty foods and sugar-loaded treats can upset the stomach and bog down the digestive system. Not only is this a burden for metabolic processes to function adequately, but the effects of an unhealthy diet can literally keep you up at night and interrupt quality sleep. Instead, adopt a well-balanced diet with plenty of protein. A rumbling tummy or sugar high that stems from a poor diet certainly won’t help you catch Z’s at night.
Timing your mealtimes properly is also key for maintaining good metabolism and sound sleep. As the body prepares for a restful night, neurotransmitters instruct insulin levels to drop as the sun goes down. Shift your diet to include larger meals earlier in the day, leading to a much lighter dinner—this helps the body keep its cool overnight and maintain sufficient insulin production.
A Mix of Exercise
There’s nothing like a good workout to get the blood pumping and wear you out— in a good way! Exercise is essential for the body in so many ways, including metabolism and rest. The best bet is to include a mix of exercise styles into your weekly routine, including aerobic sessions (ideally 150 minutes a week), strength training, and stretching.
[Read: “Yoga for Better Sleep.”]
Working out in natural daylight can further help the body sync with standard sleep cycles. A brief walk or round of calisthenics early in the morning can also trigger the body to wake up so that grogginess doesn’t linger throughout the day and disrupt the following night’s sleep.
Identify Stress Triggers
Acute and prolonged stress can uproot almost all efforts to establish a healthy lifestyle. When it comes to metabolism and sleep, stress can be utterly detrimental. Severe worrying can produce excess tension in the body, disrupt hormones, and keep you up at night. Stress can also trigger nervous eating habits, overeating, and poor snack choices.
[Read: “Release Your Stress for a Good Night’s Sleep.”]
While living stress-free is a lot easier said than done, identifying and working to reduce stress triggers is worth the work. Some are an easy fix—like leaving 10 minutes earlier to avoid traffic on the way to work or appointments, or setting up a clear budget to help keep finances under control. Other stress triggers aren’t as easy to banish. For these, working with a professional to learn healthy coping techniques can do wonders for managing your body’s response to stressors.
Schedule More Than Just Bedtime
The body is awesome at adapting—but once it gets the hang of what’s going on, it expects the routine to stay the same. Establishing defined bedtime and wake-up routines is key to keeping the body clued in. Not only does this mean going to bed at roughly the same time each night—ideally when the sun goes down—but it also means mealtimes and workout sessions should stay regular. The body is designed to function according to an established rhythm. The more ritualistic your routine, the better chance your body has of taking the hint and falling into regular sleep and metabolic cycles.
Metabolism and sleep are intricately connected. By adopting healthy daytime habits, you can improve both at the same time. And that’s what sweet dreams are made of!
Time to turn in? Check out these four ways to create a healthy sleep schedule.