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6 Tips for Getting Better Sleep
Sleepiness is not much fun. I spent years in and out of a state of chronic sleep deprivation, so I know the feeling all too well.
What most people don’t consider is that chronic sleep deprivation is a source of toxicity. It causes the release of stress hormones. This means that a chronic lack of sleep is a risk factor for all chronic disease because we are chronically toxic and chronically not cycling through the optimal levels of cellular repair and restoration that should occur each night while we sleep.
There are serious consequences of not meeting our sleep requirements.
– increases the risk for all chronic diseases – cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, digestive problems, thyroid imbalance, and so on.
– mental, emotional and cognitive effects – more easily stressed, brain fog, decline of short-term memory, learning disorders, lack of clarity and focus.
– looking more tired and less healthy (I feel like I look a decade older when I’m sleep-deprived. As if exhaustion wasn’t insult enough!)
– weight gain and/or challenges with dropping excess kilos – this is due to the long-term release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and also the absence of the fat-burning hormone, growth hormone, which is released in deep sleep cycles.
These less-than-desirable effects are cumulative. The more nights you don’t have good, deep sleep, the worse the effects are, especially in terms of cognitive function.
In a study of two weeks of sleep restriction reported in the New York Times, the subjects had only 4-6 hours of sleep per night (as opposed to 8 hours) for two weeks the same level of cognitive impairment they had if they were drunk. Imagine all the people there functioning at this level every day!
Here are 6 suggestions to sleep better:
1) Live a healthy lifestyle in general.
The majority of the time, eat healthy foods and get regular, stimulating exercise. Aim for balance.
2) Prepare for sleep – Chill out and power down.
Don’t do any intense exercise within 2-3 hours of your intended bedtime…even longer, if you can help it.
Go to bed when you are tired. Not the bank. Not the armchair. Bed.
Less mental stimulation as bedtime approaches. Again, not the time for scary movies, late night (bad) news, or stressful meetings. This also includes removing all your connections and screens for the night – computer, phone, ipad, television, and whatever gadgets you have these days.
Have relaxing rituals and routines at night. Deep breathing, relaxation, meditation, light reading, writing in a gratitude journal, whatever works for you!
I like to have plans, action steps, and ideas down for the next day so my brain can rest when it’s time to sleep.
3) Look at your evening recording.
No alcohol a few hours before bed. (If you’re really sleepy and really desperate to improve here, cut it out all together for a few weeks and see what happens)
Keep all liquids to a minimum for your last few hours – helps with night trips to the bathroom.
I wouldn’t recommend drinking coffee in the afternoon, or at least not 8 hours or so before you want to sleep.
If you need a late night snack, base it on healthy fats and protein, not starchy carbs or other high sugar foods.
Really, the same can be said for food. I know this can be difficult, but dinner (especially a late dinner) is not a wise time to scarf down a big plate of pasta, a loaf of bread or a bunch of grains in any form. While we’re at it, you should pass on the high-sugar dessert for the same reasons.
4) Consider your sleeping environment.
Sleeping in complete darkness is best. This ensures optimal release of the “sleep and relaxation hormone”, melatonin. Even if you have to get up at night to use the bathroom, try not to turn on the lights. It interrupts this hormonal release.
Move anything that emits EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies) away from your noggin. For example your digital clock.
Several studies indicate that an air temperature around 60 degrees, give or take, is best for optimal sleep. Most people have trouble sleeping when it’s too hot, or the heat is cranked up all night.
Having a window cracked for fresh air in and the escape of carbon dioxide can also be helpful.
Make sure your feet are warm. I found this to be true for me. Cold feet kept me tossing and turning all night. Solution? Socks. You are welcome. That’s why they pay me the big bucks, right there.
Try some “white noise” or use earplugs if external noises disturb your sleep. I keep a small fan in our room.
The quieter, more relaxed and ‘tidy’ your bedroom is, the more likely you are to be completely relaxed there.
5) Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
I’ve resisted this in the past, no doubt thinking I “deserved” some extra shut-eye on a weekend morning. But, it’s probably not a coincidence that I’ve been very consistent with my bedtime and wake time over the last few months and my sleep has improved dramatically. Therefore, so has my focus, memory, clarity, and productivity. Try it for a few weeks and see how it works for you.
6) It can be something else.
Your sleep problems may be the result of certain medications, or a combination of medications you are taking. Many have that effect. Talk to your prescribing doctor about an exit strategy and a real solution for what you are currently taking.
You may have some chronic hormonal imbalance or hormonal resistance. This can be from chronic toxicity and inflammation. Until that is resolved, all hormonal function can be skewed.
In the case of sleep, some of the major hormonal players are cortisol, melatonin and insulin, to name just a few. In some cases of hormonal imbalance, the result is that you cannot fall asleep. In other cases, you may fall asleep, but then you often wake up and cannot go back to sleep. I feel your frustration.
By the way, remember that if your cortisol levels are out (or the receptors are clogged due to toxicity and inflammation) you will gain weight and have a hard time losing it.
Having sensitivities to certain foods can keep you up at night. If you have problems with intestinal permeability (probably the case if you are sensitive to a lot of food), this can cause symptoms and discomfort that keep you restless.
The good news is that there are solutions that address (and correct) the root cause of inflammation, toxicity, hormonal resistance, and intestinal permeability issues. I wouldn’t expect to find them through your family document though! Typically, you have to break away from the basic treatment protocol offered by conventional practitioners and get into more functional diagnostics and care.
Of course, there can be other reasons for occasional or temporary sleep loss; things like stressful situations or events, or certain seasons of our life (like co-sleeping with a baby or young child), or trips, or a big change in life, and so on.
The occasional and temporary loss of sleep is not so terrible. Humans can be pretty great at adapting to stressful environments when we have to. However, if the sleep disorder becomes chronic, we must take it seriously and work to correct it just as we would with any other health condition.
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