I wanted to talk about a topic that I have discussed in the past – the importance of sleep. With the holidays upon us, many will be eating on the run, experiencing the stress of being able to finish the many errands of the season and having to attend more frequent parties at night. It is extremely important, however, to not compromise your sleep patterns.

WellBella Magazine features an article for the December issue on sleep and its overall impact on health and weight loss. In the article, the author cites the American Sleep Institute report that 60% of Americans don't get enough sleep every night. What is more worrisome, however, is another statistic they cite that reports Americans averaged about 8.5 hours sleep in the 1960s. Today, the average is less than seven hours a night.

There is growing scientific research suggesting that a lack of sleep is a major cause of being overweight and even obese. One of the reasons they discuss is that our bodies are genetically wired for a 24-hour metabolic cycle. The cycle depends on having the body expend more energy during the days balanced with resting at night to allow the body a chance to limit energy and activity production.

When we don't get the appropriate sleep levels, our bodies lose that balance. Metabolism needs to produce energy at time when it should be resting. To do that, it signals the need for more fuel in the form of food. Appetite goes up, and we eat more. Over time, this imbalance and higher appetite leads to increased calories and weight gain.

In addition, sleep lets you concentrate more, allow you to handle the stress of life better and will give you the maximum amount of energy during the days. So, make sure you commit to getting a better night's sleep this holiday season and start 2012 off right. According to WellBella Magazine, the top five tips to getting better sleep are:

Turn off television and computer 30 minutes before bedtime – the light generated from the devices can act as a stimulant.

Supplement – possibly look for a supplement containing melatonin or valerian. Always ask your physician before taking any new supplement.

Protein beverage – they suggest a protein beverage about an hour before going to bed. It will make you feel full and help to suppress the body's stress hormones.

Consistent bedtime – make sure you have the same bedtime every night, even on weekends. The body gets use to the schedule and depends on that sleep.

Avoid exercise before bedtime – the body can perform better if you exercise in the morning or daytime. They recommend no exercise within three hours of bedtime.

Mackie Spotlight

EJGH’s very own Mackie Shilstone, Executive Director of the Fitness Principle, is in New York working with Serena Williams as she goes for another U.S. Open title. As Williams’s Fitness Coach, Mackie will be part of the team preparing her for matches throughout the tournament. To give everyone a behind-the-scenes look at how Williams prepares for every opponent, Mackie is writing a daily postcard for Nola.com detailing all the day’s happenings. Check back daily for updates. 

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