Saturday, May 25

Can You Sleep Yourself Slim?


Dreaming of getting a good, quality, and healthy night’s sleep? Or as is the case for many South Africans, does this dream feel like an unattainable luxury? Whilst we may not be able to whisk away your stress, we may be able to help give you the support you need for restorative sleep.

Routinely sleeping less than six hours a night affects every aspect of our makeup, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It negatively impacts our immune system, increases the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease, and disrupts your blood sugar levels. In addition, it contributes to mental and emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety. Plus, it can lead to weight gain as it slows the thyroid, potentially wreaking havoc around your waistline.

But, with sleep having such a big impact on our waistlines, is it possible to sleep yourself slim?


Sleeping yourself slim

In his book, Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams, Author Matthew Walker, writes “The less you sleep, the more you are likely to eat.”

Sleep deprivation increases hunger and appetite and compromises impulse control and effective weight loss when dieting.  When you’re eating, even though you are full, you still want to eat more, especially more high-calorie foods. Worse, if you are on diet and aren’t getting enough sleep, most of the weight you lose will come from lean body mass and not fat. In addition, your body becomes unable to manage calories effectively, particularly sugar. Less than six hours sleep a night over a long period of time can reduce insulin sensitivity. Therefore, lack of sleep will increase your probability of gaining weight, being overweight, or obese, and significantly increase your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.

Sleep regulates one’s appetite, helping control body weight through healthy food selection rather than impulsive choices. “Simplified, sleep enriches one’s ability to learn, memorise, and make logical decisions and choices,” writes Walker. “Sleep replenishes the immune system, helping fight malignancy, preventing infection, and warding off illness. It balances insulin and aids gut health. Adequate sleep lowers blood pressure while keeping one’s heart in fine condition.”


Also read: Herbal tea has been proven to have great health and sleep benefits. Find out more here.

Bedtime tips

The great news is, regularly getting enough sleep will help you control your overall health and body weight. Below are some tips on how to achieve this:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Establish a daily bedtime and wake-up time that applies to weekends too. As creatures of habit, people have a hard time adjusting to changes in sleep patterns. If there is only one piece of advice you remember, setting an alarm for bedtime should be it. According to Walker, restricting the time insomniacs spend in bed, even to just to six hours initially, is an effective, if paradoxical cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) method as it builds up sleep pressure. The weight of this pressure aids falling asleep faster, achieving a more stable, solid form of sleep throughout the night. Remember to use an alarm that is gentle, as a jarring sound can increase blood pressure and your heart rate. Snoozing only exacerbates this.
  • Go to bed only when sleepy. Don’t lie awake in bed for a long time. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to drift off. Rather, get out of bed and do something quiet and relaxing, such as breathing exercises, until the urge to sleep returns.
  • Avoid daytime naps, especially after 3 pm, if you are having difficulty sleeping at night. Naps can help make up for lost sleep, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  • Reduce bright light, electric as well as LED at night – complete darkness throughout the night is recommended. Install software on all devices that gradually desaturate the harmful blue LED light from sunset onwards. Aim to have a gadget-free bedroom.


  • Temperature regulation is key – decrease your core temperature by splashing your face with your hands, with water as this tells the body to release melatonin. The water helps dissipate heat from the surface of the skin as it evaporates, thereby cooling the inner body core. The recommended room temperature is around 18 degrees. Alternatively, take a hot bath before bed. The drop in body temperature after getting out of the bath may help you feel sleepy, and the bath can help you relax so you’re more ready to sleep. Don’t forget to invest in good bed linen with excellent temperature regulation properties to ensure you stay cool during the night while you’re sleeping.
  • If you’re sensitive to caffeine, then limit caffeine from the afternoon as its effects can take as long as eight hours to wear off fully. Nicotine is also a stimulant to be avoided as it often causes smokers to sleep only very lightly. Smokers also often wake up too early in the morning because of nicotine withdrawal.
  • Limit alcohol before going to sleep – it sedates you rather than inducing natural sleep and it suppresses REM sleep, keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep. Heavy alcohol ingestion also may contribute to impairment in breathing at night. You also tend to wake up in the middle of the night when its effects have worn off.
  • Exercise long before bedtime. Exercise is great, but not too late in the day. Try to exercise at least thirty minutes on most days but not later than two to three hours before your bedtime.
  • Nutrition plays a large role – reducing your calorie intake drastically makes it harder to fall asleep normally and decreases the amount of deep NREM sleep at night. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. A light snack is okay, but a large meal can cause indigestion, which interferes with sleep. Drinking too many fluids at night can cause frequent awakenings to urinate.


  • Relax before bed. Don’t overschedule your day so that no time is left for unwinding. A relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music, should be part of your bedtime ritual. If need be, take sleep supplements, like CBD or other natural sleep aids, to help you relax your mind and drift off to sleep.
  • Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least thirty minutes each day. If possible, wake up with the sun or use very bright lights in the morning.  If you have problems falling asleep, sleep experts recommend getting an hour of exposure to morning sunlight and turning down the lights before bedtime.

Ensuring good quality sleep

Quality sleep is not just a nice-to-have, it’s vital in maintaining your overall health. Your body, mind, and soul need and deserve quality sleep. That is why it’s important to invest in the right sleep solutions to ensure that you get it.

Take the time to design your best night’s sleep ecosystem. This means the correct selection of these elements: mattress, pillow, bed base and bed frame, lighting, and temperature. Having a comfortable mattress, the right pillow, and the best bed linen you can afford can help promote a good night’s sleep.


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