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6 Surprising Factors that Might Be Ruining Your Sleep

6 Surprising Factors that Might Be Ruining Your Sleep

If you suffer from poor sleep quality, you’ve probably tried all the classic advice: Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Avoid large meals before bed. Implement a regular bedtime routine that helps you relax. Reduce stress in your daily life.

But sometimes, the classic advice doesn’t cut it. And poor sleep quality, when left unresolved, can wreak havoc on your life. Chronic low-quality sleep can impact virtually every area of your life, from your mood, memory, and decision-making abilities to your physical health.

If you’ve tried all the classic better-sleep strategies but you’re still feeling tired every day, then your sleep deprivation might stem from a more unusual source. Here are six surprising factors that might be ruining your sleep.

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1. Sleeping pills.

This seems counterintuitive. Don’t people take sleeping pills to help their sleep? Yes, of course. The problem isn’t taking sleeping pills every once in a while. Instead, troubles arise when you over-rely on sleeping pills.

Using sleeping pills for more than a few weeks at a time can cause your body to become dependent on them. That means your sleep quality is going to suffer as soon as you go off the pills. Even though it might be tempting to pop a pill for a quick fix every night, you’re better off finding more sustainable solutions for quality sleep.

2. Washing your face before bed.

Many people wash their face each night as part of their bedtime routine. This may be good for your complexion, but it can also inhibit your ability to fall asleep. That’s because getting splashed in the face with cold water shocks the body into alertness. This has an energizing effect—and that’s the opposite of what you want when you’re trying to wind down. As an alternative, consider using warm water to wash your face at night.

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If you really can’t give up the cold water, then consider going all out. There’s some evidence that holding your face in a bowl of ice water for 30 seconds can trigger the Mammalian Dive Reflex, which lowers blood pressure and heart rate and can facilitate sleepiness. The difference here is the duration your face is exposed to cold: A splash will wake you up, while (relatively) long exposure will slow down your bodily systems.

3. Peppermint toothpaste.

Note: I am not advising you to stop brushing your teeth at night. But do consider using a flavor other than peppermint. The scent of peppermint has been shown to have an energizing effect that reduces sleepiness, boosts alertness, increase physical energy, and charges up the central nervous system. None of those things are conducive to falling asleep.

4. Charging your phone.

You probably know to avoid screens (whether phone, tablet, computer, or TV) in the hour leading up to bed. That’s because blue light (the kind emitted by electronics) stimulates wakefulness and messes with circadian rhythms.

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What you might not realize is that even a tiny amount of light can disrupt your sleep. That includes the light on your phone, tablet, or computer that turns on when the device is being charged. To avoid this sleep disruption, charge your devices during the day or charge them outside the bedroom if you need to recharge at night.

5. Your sleeping surface.

It won’t surprise anyone that sleeping on a mattress is going to be more conducive to sleep than, say, sleeping in a car or on the recliner in your living room. So, start by sleeping on an actual bed every night. But don’t stop there. It’s important to know that not all mattresses are created equal.

Study after study has found that uncomfortable mattresses can inhibit sleep quality and cause chronic joint pain. In a negative feedback loop, that joint pain can further degrade sleep quality (it’s hard to doze off when you’re in pain).

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For these reasons, it’s critical to invest in finding the right mattress for you. There is no “one best” mattress out there; it’s all about what feels best for your body. The benefits of sleeping on a comfortable mattress include joint pain relief, a healthier spine, improved circulation, and better sleep quality overall.

6. Fifi or Fido.

If your pets sleep in the bed with you, they might be ruining your chances at a good night’s sleep. Studies have found sleeping with a pet can cause sleep disruptions throughout the night and reduce sleep quality overall.

It’s not a guarantee that your pet is wreaking havoc on your sleep—some people find sleeping with an animal can provide a sense of comfort that facilitates sound sleep. But if you’re suffering from poor sleep, it’s worth experimenting with whether you sleep better when Fifi or Fido stays on the floor.

Chronic sleep deprivation is no joke. It can mess with every aspect of your health and decrease your quality of life. So, it’s worth pursuing the issue until you’ve identified the true source of your poor sleep quality—even if it stems from an unusual cause.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Dan Scalco

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Last Updated on October 5, 2020

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

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My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8PM one evening to 12PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

Tips To Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[2] like a drink that contains sugar and cause you to overeat.

4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

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You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[3].

Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[4].

The influence intermittent fasting weight loss has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type II diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[5].

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This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fa-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

How Much Weight Will I Lose?

The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors. Fasting for 16-20 hours a day can help you safely lose 2-3 pounds of fat every week.

While losing this much weight every week is great, it’s how it makes it happen that’s really cool. Losing weight with intermittent fasting means that you will never have to count calories or plan and prepare several meals a day.

Can I Work out While Fasting?

Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are 3-4 intense strength training workouts weekly. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts.

Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

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Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen. Studies actually show that even after fasting for 3 days, no muscle is lost.

Is Fasting Safe?

As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting style of dieting.

I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when your ability to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to ensure that your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.

I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branch chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

Conclusion

Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly, safely, and pretty much effortlessly.

If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with you lifestyle and give it a go.

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Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

Reference

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