Hello, it’s me again!
I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day regarding sleep and we eventually digressed the point of trying to find out if you can actually lose weight whilst you’re asleep.
The way my brain works, is I need to understand it to either do it or buy into it. So this leads me to spend countless hours researching a topic area, going down many internet holes, before getting to where I feel like I understand it enough to talk about it.
People always say to me “you worked in the elite end of performance sport, you must know some tricks WE (implying they’re the “average person”) don’t know about”. It’s true, I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in on nutrition presentations by experts such as Dr Terri Paulson (you can follow her on instagram @ terripaulsonnutrition) talks and presentations about sleeping best practice from Luke Gupta, travelling best practice and countless other talks and presentations from Dr Tom Paulson, who was constantly trying to find marginal gains to give our athletes an edge over our competitors. How much the athletes bought into this stuff I don’t know but there were some subject areas that I definitely did and if Tom thought it would help us, I was 100% behind it.
Sleep was one of these. Ever since I can remember I’ve struggled with sleep. Overactive mind was one excuse, I don’t need much to function was another example of cognitive dissonance (see Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed for more information regarding CD). I have worked on 20 hours sleep in 5 days and still performed to my perceived level of ability, but I’m like everyone else and I do need to sleep.
Food was one thing that I found had a big impact on my sleep. It took a while to recognise though. I’d be lying awake at 2am and wondering why I can’t get to sleep, forgetting that 4 hours earlier I’d just put away a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. It was only upon undertaking the candida diet did I realise how much of an impact sugar was having on my life. Since then I’ve applied restraint and no longer have sugar after 9pm including fruit. This has improved my bed time dramatically.
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this right? I’ll get to the point, there are certain behaviours you can do to improve your chances of A falling asleep but B having a good sleep.
- No phone or iPad/ tablet or TV AT LEAST 30 minutes before you bed time. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brains into thinking that it’s day time. Normally, your brain will start to secrete melatonin between 8.30pm and 10pm and the blue lights stifle this process. This simply means your body doesn’t know it’s bed time yet!
- Sleep in complete darkness. This one is big for me, I’ve found a real difference in the quality of my sleep since changing this behaviour. I now feel rested when I wake up as my sleep isn’t interrupted by the street lighting. It has been shown that the slightest light in your bedroom can disrupt your pineal glands melatonin production.
- Get some sun in the morning. This one is a good one. Your circadean system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight sends a strong message to your body clock that the day has arrived, this results in your body being less responsive to weaker light signals in the night.
- Know your Electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) and turn them off! At my girlfriends flat, she has her wifi router (recently upgraded to include a big blue light on the front, thanks BT) next to her bed. EMF’s can have an affect on your pineal glands consequently affecting your melatonin production.
- If you can’t sleep don’t stay in bed. If you stay in bed, this can create anxiety which is only going to further the negative affect. Get up, go and read a book until you feel ready to sleep and then get to bed and close those eyes!
- Breathing techniques such as the 4, 7, 8 method have been shown to have a positive effect. Breathe calmly through your nose for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale out of your mouth slowly for 8 seconds and repeat. To get to a state where your body is ready to sleep you need to slow your heart rate. by slowing down your breathing, this will slow your heart rate, thus allowing you to fall asleep, easy.
- Cool your room, your body temperature directly affects your biological body clock. When you fall asleep, your body temperature drops slightly. According to Harvard, The National Sleep a Foundation (what a place to work) reccomend a bedroom temperature of about 15-19 degrees Celsius for ideal sleeping conditions. According to Meltzer “Darkness cues the brain to create melatonin, which tells your interior clock that it’s time to sleep. Melatonin cools your internal body temperature which reaches its lowest temperature between 2am and 4am” aka when you’re in the deep part of your sleep cycle.
- Lavender. Yeah, that’s right lavender. The scent of this flowering herb lowers your blood pressure and thus puts you in a relaxed state. Simples.
- Cool down your brain. Researchers from The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that a cap worn by insomniacs filled with cool circulating water helped them to fall sleep almost as easily as people without sleep disorders.
So that’s 9 tips, there are many more if you search the internet and what works for nine people might not work the tenth. Try them, see if they help and let me know if they do. I know a lot of them have helped change my sleeping habits!
However, that doesn’t tell you how you can lose weight whilst you sleep right? Wrong, if you look at tip 7 this relates to some research that has just been presented by the National Institute of Health in good old America. They suggest that sleeping in a cool room also has a significant effect on calorie burning and fat burning!
Dr. Francesco Celi, chairman of the Virginia Commonwealth University’s division of Endocrinology and Metabolism states that even a small reduction in room temperature helps your body “burn calories and dispose of excess blood sugar”. This is due to your body’s brown fat.
What is brown fat you say? Well brown fat’s main function is to turn food (calories) into body heat. Human newborns and hibernating animals have high levels of brown fat. People with more brown fat also generally have faster metabolisms, better blood sugar control and higher insulin sensitivity when they’re exposed to cold conditions.
Shivering will activate your brown fat, but it’s not optimal for sleeping conditions as shivering is similar to excercise in that it triggers your muscles to secrete a hormone that stimulates energy use in the brown fat cells.
Unfortunately, according to Dr. Eus van Someren from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, their research shows that for a restful, deep slumber your skin temperature must be “perfectly comfortable” aka stable. Sadly chilling yourself once you’re asleep won’t work and will more than likely end up keeping you awake.
So I guess to answer the question, you can and you can’t. It is possible to burn fat whilst you sleep BUT you may not be rested when you wake up and you may not sleep for that long!
Thanks for reading,