It’s a common problem many people face – you’re working out, eating better but still not taking off the pounds!

Let me boil this complicated subject down into one simple truth about why: If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you won’t see the weight loss results you’re working towards.

Getting adequate sleep can be tough. Read on to learn just how sleep affects your weight loss and the simple things you can do to ensure you’re getting quality shut-eye.

Somewhere along the path to fitness, we began to lose focus on big-picture wellness. Logging long hours focused on cardio became the end all, be all for losing weight. Calorie counting and low fat was the roadmap to kicking those last few pounds. Yes, what you put into your body matters and exercise is vital. But what’s even more important — and often overlooked — is SLEEP.

Consider sleep your building blocks for your mental and physical health.

Clean up your sleep diet.
If your goal is to lose 5, 15, or 50+ pounds, and you are serious about your goal, you first priority would be to check your sleep habits. Five hours of sleep a night is not enough. Patchy sleep with tons of distractions doesn’t cut it.

You need to have a serious conversation with yourself (and possibly any partners you share sleeping quarters with) about the amount you are sleeping as well as your sleep hygiene. A great quote from an interesting book on sleep (Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival) is “Get as much sleep as you can without getting divorced or fired.”

Why? Current research indicates that lack of sleep makes it almost impossible for your body to break down your fat stores for use, increases the likelihood that you will store more fat, and increases your cravings for high sugar food (and it makes sense. Have you ever been up late and had sudden cravings for ice cream or cookies?) All of this together spells doom for your weight loss goals.

Today’s lifestyle all but guarantees hectic workdays, busy evenings, and erratic schedules. So what can you do to take back your control over your sleep habits?

Prioritize sleep.
Is that web surfing or next episode of your favorite show really more important than another hour or two of sleep? The answer is no. Those things will still be there tomorrow or this weekend. Once you lose sleep it is gone forever (contrary to popular belief you can never really “catch up” on sleep).

Think: cave.
Make sure the sleep you get is the best possible sleep. Try blacking out your room as much as possible (this is especially true for those of you who sleep during the day) for a cooler temperature during sleep times. A great analogy is to try and make sure your sleep area is as close to a cave (cool and dark) as you possible can.

Let there be (no) light.
Eliminate as much artificial light as possible in the hour(s) leading up to sleep. You can do without your smart phone/tablet/laptop/TV in bed.  Try reading an actual book rather than on a tablet. It is amazingly relaxing and always helps me drift off to sleep.

Huffpost recently wrote an AWESOME article chock-full of tips for a better night’s sleep. Check it out here.

At the end of the day, you’re in control. You can make the decision to work on your sleep habits. Yes, it will take time to reconfigure your schedule to get an optimal night’s sleep. That’s OK! Give yourself a break – you can’t change a life’s worth of habits overnight.

My last bit of advice: Give it a shot. Try a few of the tips listed above and in the Huffpost article. I promise you it’s worth it. You’re worth it!

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