Sleep Yourself Slimmer!

Sleep Yourself Slimmer!

Here, Flex director Heather Thomas Shalabi shares advice on how good quality sleep can help us lose weight and stay healthier overall.

We simply cannot deny it. Sleep plays a vital role in excess weight, alongside many other negative health effects.

Why? Sleep is important when it comes to regulating metabolism and appetite. Even if we lack a small amount of sleep, the metabolic system goes out of balance, affecting our dietary choices and the way we metabolise calories.

It’s no coincidence that while our average sleep time decreased between the 1950s to 2000s—from about 8.5 hours to 6.5 hours per night—there has been an increase in the prevalence of obesity from about 10 per cent to about 23 per cent. Overworking, device addiction, increased travel, and so on, have all played a role in reducing sleep-time.

To understand further, let’s look at two key hormones: cortisol and insulin. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone,” and sleep deprivation triggers a spike in its production. Cortisol then signals your body to conserve energy to fuel your waking hours, a defence mechanism designed to protect the body from perceived stressful conditions. The bottom line is, you’re more likely to hang on to fat with increased cortisol levels.

University of Chicago researchers report that sleep deprivation makes us “metabolically groggy.” Within just four days of insufficient shut-eye, your body’s ability to process insulin—a hormone needed to change sugar, starches, and other food into energy—goes out of balance, meaning we are less likely to burn off excess calories from these sources.

Further research shows that REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is when we also burn fat, so the more you sleep, the more REM sleep you’ll get to burn more calories.

For many of us, falling asleep and/or staying asleep can be a challenge. The usual worries and stresses of life can play a big role in being able to switch off, let alone our inability to keep our hands off our phones. However, with a few small tweaks, you could be sleeping your way to a slimmer waist.

Here’s how:

Get A Routine

Go to bed at the same time each night, ideally, even on weekends—this helps regulate your body clock. Put your phone in another room, purchase an alarm clock (remember those?) and read a book instead. My phone, I hear you cry? Yet when you think of fitting into your new winter jeans or alleviating poor health due to obesity, it’s not too much to ask.

Rituals Help

Practice pre-sleep rituals for relaxation. Have a warm bath/shower, meditate or utilise meditative breathing and mindfulness (apps abound). Rub lavender oil on to your temples and inhale deeply. Keep the room cool, but not colder than about 20 degrees. Try to block out as much light as possible.

Don’t Go Hungry

A small handful of tart cherries can work. These are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, which is responsible for the regulation of the body’s internal clock and sleep-wake cycle. Sip the tried and tested chamomile tea.


Vigorous exercise is ideal, but any form of activity is better than nothing. Exercise helps with mood regulation, helping you process challenges from the day. The solution here is to think of exercise for better sleep like weight loss—it may take some time to reap results, so don’t expect miracles after one day.

Make exercise frequent, and choose workouts like HIIT and vigorous Vinyasa in the mornings, and more relaxing and restorative practices in the evening such as yin/hatha yoga and Decompression Anti- Gravity release.

O2 All Day

Drink plenty of clean water during the day – keep a reusable water bottle with you, or on your desk, and stand up to refill it and get in those extra steps. But, don’t drink too much in the few hours before you sleep.

Sweet dreams!

Flex is hosting two unique workshops with the luxury aroma and skin care brand, Aromatherapy Associates. Join us on April 26 to learn about the art of sleeping well and gain real insight into natural and effective stress management. It is held at our contemporary Central studio from 7.30pm-9pm. See more information

Heather writes a regular column for Hong Kong Tatler. Read her latest articles here:

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