It’s a principle that seems so simple it can’t possibly work, but a leading sleep expert says eating eight almonds and two dates when you wake up could be all it takes to help you sleep better and slim down.
Providing the right balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate when you wake in the morning, it is the perfect combination to kick-start the day – especially for those who can’t face breakfast, according to Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert for bed specialists Silentnight.
Eight almonds and two dates offers around 150-200 calories and will fire up your metabolism, stabilise your blood sugar, stop you reaching for the coffee and help your body produce vital melatonin later in the evening to help you sleep.
Dr Nerina is adamant that eating breakfast is vital – and not as hard as it sounds. She explains,
Eight almonds and two dates is a brilliant start to the day for anyone as they wake up, but as a tiny portion that fits into the palm of your hand, it is the perfect breakfast solution for those that find it difficult to eat when they’ve just gotten out of bed.
“Believe it or not, eating breakfast can help you sleep. It’s as simple as this; if you don’t breakfast, your body believes it is living in famine and produces stress hormones that are not conducive to restful sleep. But by eating breakfast, you’re letting your body know there is enough food and you are living in safety, which in turn switches on your sleep/energy systems.
What’s more, eating breakfast can help you lose weight by speeding your metabolism by up to 10 per cent.
“It has a ‘thermogenic’ effect that can last hours after eating. Think of it like putting fuel into a fire and getting a bigger fire.”
A recent study* conducted by bed maker Silentnight and the University of Leeds found a direct correlation between poor sleep and higher BMI, suggesting by eating breakfast to help you sleep could also be key to slimming down.
Dr Nerina continues, “When we sleep well and deeply, we wake up feeling balanced and in alignment with ourselves. Prioritising sleep means we are more likely to know what choices we need to make – what food to eat, what to drink and when and how to move.
“Not getting enough sleep forces our body into crisis or survival mode. We start to run on adrenaline which makes us conserve energy and store fat particularly around the middle – this is called ‘trunkal thickening’ – and we start breaking down our muscles.
“Being tired also makes us more reliant on caffeine and refined sugars during the day and these are all substances that will make us put on weight. Often people who have difficulty getting to sleep delay going to bed, and then snack as a procrastinating exercise or drink alcohol mistakenly believing it will make them more tired; these are all excess calories that will lead to weight gain”.
Here are Dr Nerina’s top tips for sleeping yourself slim
Eat and drink to sleep
A protein-rich breakfast eaten within 30 minutes of rising will help you produce more melatonin at night so you fall asleep more easily. Eating foods such as chicken, cheese, tofu, tuna, eggs, nuts, seeds and milk will also help to boost these hormone levels. Also remember to aim to drink two litres of water every day and stay off the caffeine.
The electronic sundown
Stay off technology 60-90 minutes before you get into bed; your descent into deep sleep will be quicker and more effortless. Your bedroom needs to be a personal sanctuary. Try and switch off as soon as you leave work and never bring your work life into the bedroom.
Stop checking the time
If you’re anxious about how much sleep you’re getting, avoid checking the time. This will just make the anxiety worse. To sleep well we almost need to let go of wanting to sleep well. In other words, the more pressure we put on ourselves to sleep, the less likely we are to actually fall asleep. In these situations it might be helpful not to use the word “sleep” but replace it with the word “rest”.
Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways of reducing stress hormone levels (mainly adrenaline) thus enabling you to sleep more deeply. This doesn’t have to be a 10km run; something a simple as a 20 minute walk outdoors is enough to reduce your stress levels.
Early to bed
At least four nights a week, aim to be in bed by 10.30pm. You don’t need to be asleep but at least resting. Reading a book, or listening to calming music or meditation. Not on your phone or laptop. Your waistline will thank you!
For more information and sleep tips, visit www.silentnight.co.uk/sleep-matters/dr-nerinas-sleep-toolkit/
*Findings from independent academic research conducted by a team of psychologists at the University of Leeds, led by Dr Anna Weighall, a developmental cognitive psychologist with expertise in sleep research. The study was a rigorously designed and empirically robust online survey of 1,018 UK resident adults aged between 18-80, with equal gender split.
The research was funded by Silentnight beds which commissioned the survey as an independent academic research project. The survey was designed and the results analysed and interpreted by Dr Weighall and her colleagues, School of Psychology, University of Leeds.