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

Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight & Tips to Regain Control

Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight And Tips to Regain Control

If you’re on a weight loss journey, December is probably the worst month of the year to stay motivated. It’s getting cold, days are shorter, and it’s more difficult to stay active… Switching to “couch potato” mode and watch your favourite shows instead (with some comfort food?) seems like a much better idea. Plus it’s Christmas soon so why bother losing weight now, let’s postpone to January when everyone will be making good resolutions, right? Well I don’t want you to give up now! There is no one-size-fits-all solution but if you feel demotivated because you’re doing everything by the book and still don’t lose weight, then let’s go through the most common reasons why it’s not happening and how to overcome this phase.

Possible reasons why you’re not losing weight

It’s important to know losing weight and losing fat are not the same thing. Losing fat is ultimately what you want… And if you’re not losing weight, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not losing fat. So before going through the list below, ask yourself if your new lifestyle is making positive impacts on your body and soul. If the answer is yes, then you have nothing to worry about, just carry on!

  • If you recently started to exercise, then you can gain muscle (which is heavy) and therefore think you’re doing something wrong. As it’s fat you want to lose anyway, this is actually a good thing.
  • Have you been keeping track of what you’re eating? Sometimes the difference between what you think you eat and what you actually eat can be huge… You could be eating too many calories without even noticing.
  • If you “drink” your calories, it will jeopardise your efforts of eating healthy and won’t even fill you up. A can of coke contains 140 calories, a glass of wine 80 calories, a pint of beer 200 calories. Remember than water is what you really need to stay hydrated and it contains 0 calories.
  • Sleep deprivation can not only lead to mental health issues but could also be a risk factor for obesity. Have you been getting enough sleep lately?
  • Maybe you’re not eating when you’re really hungry. You could either stop and think if you really need food right now, or you could try intermittent fasting to limit your feeding window during the day (but do not starve yourself!).
  • Have you already hit your healthy set point? Your body will naturally go towards its ideal weight if you have a healthy lifestyle. Question is: do you and your body both agree on what your ideal weight is? Have realistic expectations.
  • Some medical conditions can make weight loss a lot harder. If you think it could be your case or have any doubts, speak to a doctor about your options.
you can win if you want

Tips to regain control of your weight loss

I can’t tell you exactly what you should eat (or stop eating) to suddenly lose weight, but I can give you some tips to stay focused on your healthy goals. If you’ve ever been promised to lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time by eating a specific food, your chances of success are very slim. Dieticians would agree it’s more about a lifestyle change and building a long-term habit! So play the long game.

  • Focus on your wellbeing – How do you feel?
  • Remember why you’re doing it – Think long term. For example: “I want to be a healthy person and live a high quality life. I want to feel good about myself too.”
  • Create a food plan when you’re not hungry – Know in advance what and when you eat (even better if you eat at the same time every day), it will give you control over your food choices and make impulsive unhealthy meals less frequent.
  • Eat mindfully, enjoy each meal and focus on your food (no distractions like TV, phone, etc).
  • Make sure you accurately estimate food portions and be wary of hidden calories. Sometimes you don’t realise the impact of small additions to your meal: an extra tablespoon of olive oil is 120 calories, an extra tablespoon of mayonnaise is another 100 calories, etc. Sugary drinks and alcohol are also very high in calories (as mentioned earlier), so it’s best to avoid them completely or at least reduce your consumption in your day-to-day routine.
  • Remember you make choices, not rules. If you have too many food restrictions in your diet, it will eventually frustrate you and make you subconsciously want them more. Focus instead on healthy food you love.
  • Sleep well and drink more water (and stay consistent). The right amount of sleep and staying hydrated will help you manage your appetite better!
  • Don’t focus only on weight – it’s just one indicator among others – and track other healthful changes that may have happened, like your waist and hips circumferences. You can also use a smart scale to get more information on your body composition (% fat, % water, muscle mass, etc).
  • Don’t compensate your boredom with food and distract yourself – I give you a few ideas how in this post.
  • Be patient and realistic, things won’t happen overnight.

I think it’s pretty normal to experience a weight loss plateau at some point. The key is to not give up, weight loss will eventually resume, unless you’re doing something wrong without knowing… This is why I wanted to list the most common reasons why you’re not losing weight and how to overcome it. And if you constantly remind yourself of how far you’ve come, it should definitely keep you on track. Not everyone can succeed in changing their lifestyle for good, because it requires dedication, self-discipline, perseverance and resilience. Do you have what it takes? I know you do!

Big Girl x