The Power of a Good Sleep Routine on Your Health & Wellbeing

If you’re also a night owl and (used to) have a long commute to work that forces you to wake up earlier in the morning, you understand how difficult it is to get the right amount of sleep every night. For that, the Government telling us to stay home with the pandemic has been a blessing: the opportunity to spend more time in bed! I remember how it always used to be a struggle for me to wake up early in the morning, I wish I could be wide awake before my alarm clock even rings and get up feeling fresh but it’s simply not the case. We’re not all equal when it comes to our ability to fall asleep but focusing on getting a good sleep routine is essential for our mental health, weight management, mood etc, basically our overall wellbeing.

The importance of sleep

Sleeping is as important as breathing, eating and drinking, it plays a vital role in our mental and physical health. The connection between sleep and health is very strong: if you don’t sleep well, it will impact your health, and if you’re not healthy, you will not sleep well. It could quickly turn into a vicious circle: lack of sleep => tiredness => difficulty coping with daily life => low self-esteem => feelings of worry and/or stress => lack of sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. A good night’s sleep can facilitate weight loss too. Associated with a lower stress level, you can double your chances of slimming down. Sleep patterns affect weight loss.

What happens if you don’t get enough sleep

A lack of sleep in the short term can happen easily to anyone, but it’s more the long term impact you need to worry about. It can affect your mood, energy, concentration levels, relationships, and your ability to stay awake and function at work during the day. Poor sleep can make it much more difficult to cope with relatively minor stress. A lack of sleep can cause depression, anxiety, symptoms of mania or hypomania, and can also reinforce schizophrenia or aggravate symptoms if you already have ADHD. On top of all that, poor sleep dramatically alters the way the body responds to food: it’s a major risk factor for weight gain and obesity because it can increase your appetite and therefore increase your calorie intake. It can also decrease your resting metabolism and cause cells to become insulin resistant.

How you can improve your sleep

The Mental Health Foundation recommends “HEAL” as the 4 pillars of good sleep: Health, Environment, Attitude and Lifestyle. You can download their “how to sleep better” guide here for free.

Personally, I find useful to use a sleep tracker to look at my record in the morning. I use an Oura ring because their reports are very well done, below some screenshots of my sleep record last night as an example (click on images to enlarge them). They give you a score out of 100 (over 85 is considered optimal), based on different contributors. You can see on the graph I seem to have been awake just before 4am… 2 options: my bladder or my cats. But overall I’m doing pretty good with my sleep.

There are 4 sleep stages: one called REM (rapid eye-movement, also known as “active sleep”) and one called non-REM, subdivided in 3 stages (including light and deep sleep). Overall, it usually goes in cycles through each stage of the sleep but you spend the majority of the night in light sleep. Based on data gathered from Oura users, deep sleep represents on average 13-23% and REM 20-25% (it can vary widely by individual). These 2 phases are extremely important for good recovery.

If you struggle to fall asleep

Meditation can help, as well as other techniques used to fall asleep in no time. You can find some illustrations in this useful article from Healthline. If you think you have insomnia (like about a third of the global population), maybe you need to check if it’s actually the case by doing a sleep self-assessment here, it will also give you some do’s and don’ts to treat insomnia yourself. But if it’s more serious, you should get help from a professional.

Extra tips

Since I’ve had the chance to this year, I’ve been focusing on my sleep a lot lately. I make sure to wake up and go to bed at similar times every day (including weekends) and I have a light dinner early (around 6pm) to leave plenty of time for digestion before bedtime. If I feel tired during the day, I make sure not to nap so I can sleep better at night. I try to relax and avoid big screens just before going to bed but sometimes 2 little fellas are not cooperating: my cats get more active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk, like other crepuscular animals. But they also contribute positively to my mental health so it compensates the occasional sleep disturbance. Overall, I’ve never felt better!

Have you been getting enough sleep lately?

Big Girl x

What Impact Can Horror Movies Have on You?

horror movies for halloween

Halloween is coming up!! I’ve always loved it because of all the treats, the fancy dress themed parties and all pumpkin style candles. But… I will try and avoid too many sweets this year (losing weight, remember) and I have no intention to dress up to go to a Halloween party either (thanks to COVID-related restrictions, etc) so all I have left is carving my own pumpkin and watching horror movies on TV.

I love horror movies, always have, even if most of them are really bad and the end always very predictable… Some people don’t enjoy horror movies though, it’s either you love it or you hate it. For those of us who love them, is it because we take it with sarcasm (“haha it’s not real, it’s just tomato sauce, not real blood”), because we like being scared (just for fun) or because of the adrenaline it generates? I did notice it affects the way I think sometimes, there is a fine line between “imagination” and “paranoia” or “anxiety”. So my question is: Do horror movies affect our mental health?

It could be a traumatic experience

I remember I was 17 when I went to see Halloween H20: 20 Years Later at the cinema with a couple of friends. For several days I was scared of my bathroom mirror, just in case someone suddenly appeared behind me. I’ve seen many horror movies but this one left its mark on me, probably because of the story line and the fact that the killer is a close relative to the main character (Jamie Lee Curtis). 10 years later, it’s the movie Mirrors who made me jump at the cinema. I found it hard to watch because of all the suspense that made the experience almost real. After this, I think I’ve only watched horror movies at home.

Horror movies can create or worsen anxiety

I find horror movies very similar to theme parks, where you can feel terrified but know you’re safe at the same time (even though I don’t enjoy rollercoasters as much as I used to when I was younger). I wouldn’t recommend horror movies if you’re already struggling to fall asleep, as it could keep you awake at night. Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep are directly linked to mood swings and the ability to process emotions… Which can lead to mental health issues. I doubt this could be good for people already suffering from anxiety either. Anxiety is caused by unwanted fears and intrusive thoughts, so best to stay away from this type of “entertainment”. Unless you want to face your fears and use the opportunity to endure unpleasant distress without it being dangerous… Sounds a bit extreme though.

But they can still be enjoyable

I think it’s worth saying all horror movies are not the same. Some are just gore and graphic, not so scary but there is blood literally everywhere. Some don’t necessarily involve a lot of dead bodies but play with your mind. The music plays a bit part in it too, I’ve seen my sister covering her ears but keep watching for example. It made me laugh at first but it makes complete sense when you think about it. The most enjoyable part for me is probably to buddy up with someone who also loves this movie genre and laugh about it. I wouldn’t watch them on my own, except maybe the Saw Saga that is one of my favourites. Set your own boundaries! Getting in the Halloween spirit is fun, but taking care of your mental health is far more important.

Do you like horror movies? If yes, what are your favourite ones?

Big Girl x