By Tanya McCausland of Home Cooked Healing

Women are busier than ever! Between commuting, work, meetings, kids, cooking, cleaning, running errands, taking the dog for a walk, doing laundry and getting to the gym, who’s got time to sleep, right? Wrong.

Skimping on the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night can actually sabotage your weight loss goals. But, it’s not just about the time you spend in the sack. The quality of your sleep is the key to losing weight while you catch your Zzzz’s. And sleeping in total and complete darkness every single night is the best way to ensure a decent rest.

Here’s why: Even the slightest bit of light prevents your sleepy hormone melatonin from putting you into a deep rejuvenating slumber. When melatonin isn’t able to do his job, the hormones that make you happy (serotonin) and regulate your hunger (leptin) are also affected, making you cranky AND hungry. Who wants that? Plus, cranky + hungry = reaching for poor quality, high calorie foods to comfort you or help you deal with stress.

Here are 3 helpful tips for getting used to the dark — and getting a full night of quality sleep:

1. Get Blackout Blinds: The neighbor leaving on his porch light all night long might make him feel safe but it’s ruining your sleepy time. Get dark drapes for your windows to prevent any light from seeping in. You can also buy paper blackout shades at most hardware stores that install in minutes and are super cheap.

2. Go Unplugged: It’s most ideal to not have any electronics in your bedroom such as a television, DVD player, modem or computer – all of which have oodles of blinking lights that never go out. Remove these if you can. If not, cover lights by taping black paper over them or covering them with a cloth. If all else fails, simply get into the habit of  turning off all electronics an hour before going to bed. That means no computer, cell phone or television! This gives your melatonin a chance to get going so when you lay down you’re likely to go to sleep faster and sleep through the night.

3. Give Freddy and Jason a Rain Date: It may sound silly, but avoid scary movies before bed. I know I hesitate to turn off the lamp when I think something might be lurking under my mattress.

What are your tips and tricks for getting a better night sleep? Please share your ideas with us so we can all have sweet dreams tonight!

About this Contributor: Tanya McCausland is a Health and Culinary Coach in Alameda, CA She inspires, encourages and motivates her clients to create a life of health and balance through delicious food and simple lifestyle changes. She believes that our kitchens have the ability to heal – we just have to stock our pantries with real food and not be afraid to wield a wooden spoon every so often!