Six ways to BURN calories and FUEL sleep: Dr MICHAEL MOSLEY reveals the simple exercises that can aid your restful slumber
There’s no doubt that a great night’s sleep is the best possible way to boost your immunity and fight off infections.
So, in these troubled times, it can be doubly infuriating if you’re being kept awake by snoring — either yours or the person you share a bed with.
But luckily, my brilliant new insomnia beating plan, could provide the answer.
The idea behind TRE is that limiting the window within which you eat will help you lose weight, improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, make you sharper and help you sleep better, too. To maximise your chances of a deep sleep, you should finish your last meal of the day at least three hours before you go to bed [File photo]
All this week the Daily Mail has been serialising my latest book, Fast Asleep, with exclusive four-page pull-outs which detail the powerful sleep-inducing benefits of ‘sleep fasting’, a low-carb Mediterranean diet and great sleep hygiene.
And I’ve saved the best news for last — because one of the key elements of my plan is a foolproof way to reduce snoring and boost the quality of your sleep.
Most people who snore find themselves in a Catch-22 situation where snoring causes fragmented sleep, which then disrupts appetite hormones and blood sugar levels, making weight gain almost inevitable.
But weight gain also increases the risk and intensity of snoring. My plan can reverse this vicious cycle. I come from a long line of snorers.
My father used to snore really, really loudly, like someone sawing logs. It was loud enough to be heard on the other side of the house.
I, too, used to snore at an incredible volume; in fact, my wife said that when we lived in London, I snored so loudly that I drowned out the sound of the metal beer barrels being delivered to the pub opposite first thing in the morning.
Most people who snore find themselves in a Catch-22 situation where snoring causes fragmented sleep, which then disrupts appetite hormones and blood sugar levels, making weight gain almost inevitable [File photo]
Now, it might sound harsh, but the main reason most people snore is that they are overweight.
If you are a woman with a neck size over 16 inches, or a man with a neck size over 17 inches, you are almost certainly a snorer.
The uncomfortable truth is, as we get older and fatter, we snore more. That’s because our throat gets narrower, our throat muscles get weaker and our uvula, which is that finger-like bit of tissue that hangs down at the back of our throat, gets floppier.
All these changes mean that when we breathe in, the air can’t move freely through our nose and throat and into our lungs.
Instead, the incoming air makes the surrounding tissues vibrate, which produces that horrendous snoring noise.
This will disrupt your sleep and your partner’s sleep as well. There is now a lot of evidence that people who sleep less than seven hours a night are more likely to become overweight or obese and develop type 2 diabetes than those who sleep well.
One reason is that sleep deprivation alters your appetite hormones, making you more likely to feel hungry and less likely to feel full. It certainly makes you more likely to crave sweet foods.
It’s not just that your blood sugar levels soar and your hunger hormones go into overdrive when you’re tired; the areas of your brain associated with reward also become more active.
In other words, you become much more motivated than normal to seek out unhealthy foods such as crisps and chocolate.
In fact, a study at King’s College London found that sleep deprived people consume, on average, an extra 385 calories per day, which is equivalent to a large slice of cake.
Trick your brain
There is a clever technique called ‘paradoxical intention’ where you deliberately try to stay awake when you are desperate to go to sleep.
Try saying to yourself: ‘I am enjoying being awake. I really am.
Let’s see how long I can stay awake for.’ It takes the pressure off and by doing so it can, paradoxically, lead to you falling asleep.
Once you start to store away those extra calories as fat around your gut and neck, you will be in difficulty.
An important Swedish study of middle-aged women found the differences in sleep quality and quantity among the overweight was striking.
Women in the normal weight range slept 25 minutes more per night, got 20 per cent more brain restoring deep sleep and 22 per cent more emotionally calming REM sleep than women with a waist larger than 33inches. So, what can you do about it?
Well, when I was an overweight diabetic, I slept terribly, at least in part because I snored so much. And the reason I used to snore so loudly was because I used to have a 17-inch neck.
When I put myself on the 5:2 diet, back in 2012, and lost 20lb (9kg), I also lost an inch of fat around my neck, and the snoring stopped. Completely.
The best way to lose weight
If you are overweight, and your sleep is poor it can be difficult to know whether to prioritise improving sleep or losing weight. Luckily, you can do both at the same time.
Losing weight will help you sleep better, while sleeping better will make losing inches around your waist and neck (the most common cause of snoring) that much easier.
By switching to a low-carb Mediterranean diet as recommended by my FAST ASLEEP programme (more details at thefast800.com) you can expect to lose a lot of weight (around 10kg, on average, in 12 weeks) and you will certainly improve your health and sleep).
It’s not just that your blood sugar levels soar and your hunger hormones go into overdrive when you’re tired; the areas of your brain associated with reward also become more active [File photo]
The recipes in my new book are based on a low-carb Mediterranean diet and not only great for helping you sleep but also cleverly created to help keep you fuller for longer — which in turn will help you shed fat and keep it off.
But you can add another powerful tool into the mix: Time Restricted Eating or TRE.
This is the simplest and easiest form of fasting — you just increase the length of the normal overnight fast that happens when you sleep by either taking an early supper or a late breakfast (or skipping it altogether).
The idea behind TRE is that limiting the window within which you eat will help you lose weight, improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, make you sharper and help you sleep better, too.
To maximise your chances of a deep sleep, you should finish your last meal of the day at least three hours before you go to bed.
That is what I was recently advised by Dr Satchin Panda, a professor at the Salk Institute in the U.S. and a world expert in chronobiology and circadian clock research.
Dr Panda told me that he thinks most people will find 14:10 easiest to stick to (going 14 hours, overnight, without eating and then eating within a 10-hour window).
That is what he aims for himself. He has an evening meal with his family around 6pm and then doesn’t eat again until 8am the next morning.
A good reason to avoid a late night snack is that you avoid triggering the digestive process which can interfere with your sleep.
More specifically, it means your core body temperature can slowly drop as bedtime approaches.
This fall is driven by your circadian clock and the process helps trigger sleep. The trouble with late-night eating is it raises body temperature.
When a latenight snack hits your stomach, your gut has to spring into action to break down and absorb the food you’ve just eaten.
This increase in gut activity means your core body temperature will remain high, just when you want it to go down.
One of the other major benefits of TRE is that it gives the lining of your gut, which takes a fearful bashing during the day, more time to repair itself. It’s a bit like trying to repair a motorway; you can’t do it while cars are driving up and down in the day, so you have to wait till night-time to close it down.
If you don’t give your gut time to repair, you may develop a condition called leaky gut syndrome, which occurs when bacteria that are living in your guts escape through the damaged stomach lining into your bloodstream, causing inflammation, bloating and pain.
I recommend starting with 12:12. This means not eating for 12 hours, for example between 8pm and 8am.
Getting used to TRE can take time, but most people find that they soon adapt. If you have found it relatively easy, you may want to extend your overnight fast from 12 to 14 hours (14:10). Try to maintain TRE five days a week.
If you want, you can also try 16: 8 which has the best evidence for speedy weight loss.
Science of sleep
A good night’s sleep, particularly one that is rich in REM, increases our ability to come up with novel solutions to problems.
Paul McCartney says the tune for ‘Yesterday’ came to him while he was asleep.
Chicken broth for sweet dreams
This is a gut-soothing chicken broth, full of vital nutrients.
Serves 4 (makes 1.5 litres)
- 500g organic chicken wings and/or leftover roasted chicken
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 medium carrot, well scrubbed, trimmed, sliced
- 2 sticks celery, trimmed and cut into 2cm lengths
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- 50g piece fresh root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
Place the chicken wings in a large saucepan with the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger and five- spice powder.
(If using leftover roast chicken, discard any skin and take any meat off the bones, refrigerate in a covered bowl. Place the remaining carcass in the saucepan.)
Pour over 2 litres cold water to cover all the ingredients and cover with a lid.
Place over the heat and bring to a very gentle simmer (the water should be barely bubbling) and cook for at least 4 hours, but up to 6 hours if you have the time.
Skim off foam that rises to the surface and top up the water, if needed. Ladle the stock through a fine sieve into a large bowl or saucepan.
Save any usable pieces of chicken meat from the bones and discard the rest. Serve the broth with the reserved meat, use as stock or cool completely before covering and placing in the fridge or freezing.
Cook’s Tip: You can prepare the stock in a slow cooker for several hours or overnight. Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for correct quantities of water for the best results.
Chicken noodles with pak choi
Pak choi is an excellent source of soluble fibre, as are mushrooms and spring onions.
We love this as a quick and easy light lunch – reminiscent of food from stalls in South East Asia.
- 1.5 litres anti-inflammatory Chinese-style chicken broth (see recipe above) or 1.5 litres water and 1 ½ chicken or vegetable stock cubes
- 150g dried wholewheat or buckwheat noodles
- 150g mushrooms (shiitake are particularly good), sliced
- 100–200g cooked chicken
- 4 spring onions, trimmed/sliced
- 4 small pak choi, trimmed and thickly sliced
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 long red chilli, thinly sliced, or ½ tsp crushed dried chilli flakes (opt)
- 1–1 ½ tbsp dark soy sauce, to taste
Pour the stock into a large saucepan and add the noodles, mushrooms, cooked chicken, spring onions, pak choi, sesame oil and chilli, if using.
Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 3 minutes, or until the noodles are soft. Season with soy sauce to serve.
When I am struggling to sleep, the first thing I attempt is deep breathing.
It has been shown to reduce stress by activating the parasympathetic system (part of your autonomic nervous system) which causes your heart to slow and your blood pressure to drop.
Start by taking a slow, deep inhale through the nose, allowing the air to fill your lungs. Put a hand on your belly — you should feel it inflate.
Hold it for a count of two, then breathe out slowly through your mouth. The first few times you do it, it will feel unnatural, so you need to practise during the daytime.
You will notice that as you do this, your heart rate will slow and you will start to feel more relaxed.
Mindfulness helps you sleep because it encourages you to accept that you are awake and that is fine. Once you stop worrying about not going to sleep, sleep is more likely to come [File photo]
- Breathe in deeply through your nose while mentally counting to 4.
- Hold your breath to a count of 2.
- Breathe out through your mouth to a count of 4.
- Start by breathing out through your mouth and then use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
- Breathe in deeply through your left nostril to a count of four. Really fill your belly. l Now switch sides. Block your left nostril with your left thumb and breathe out fully to a count of four.
- Repeat 10 times. If you feel at all dizzy, which I did the first time I attempted this, you are trying too hard. Don’t push yourself. This is supposed to be relaxing.
Progressive muscle relaxation
While you’re inhaling, contract one muscle group (for example make a fist with your right hand) for five seconds, then exhale and at the same time release the tension in that muscle.
As you do so, imagine those stressful feelings flowing out of your body.
Then you give yourself a brief break (10–20 seconds), squeeze your eyes shut, and relax, before progressing through these muscle groups: right hand and forearm, right upper arm, left hand and forearm, left upper arm, belly, right thigh, and so on.
Mindfulness helps you sleep because it encourages you to accept that you are awake and that is fine.
Once you stop worrying about not going to sleep, sleep is more likely to come. Sit up straight, close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath, focusing on your chest rising and your lungs filling as your breath moves in and out of your body.
No need to slow it down or speed it up. If you notice that your mind has wandered, which it will, return to focus on your breathing.
Don’t dwell on the thoughts, simply notice them and let them drift away, like leaves on a stream.
The art of mindfulness is to keep doing this, but for progressively longer periods of time.
If you can manage 10 minutes once a day, you will be doing well — 20 minutes would be better.
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