Smorgasbord Health Column – Size Matters: The Sequel – #Morbid Obesity – The power of sleep when losing weight and to be healthy by Sally Cronin

This is the updated and fifth edition of Size Matters and I had intended to release in 2021 for the 25th anniversary of my initial weight loss. However, with everything else going on in the world it did not seem appropriate to celebrate when people’s minds were fixed on survival in lockdown. Although this serialisation ontains much of the original material in relation to my own personal story, the programme has evolved over the last 25 years.

Although I studied nutritional therapy back in the mid-1990s, I have continued my studies and developed new programmes for healthy eating that are tailor made for the individual rather than a one size fits all. I still believe that the key elements of this basic weight loss programme I will share with you in this updated version works. Even when I work with clients who have arthritis or diabetes, I still approach their programmes from the three dimensions that I outline in this book.

Last week I shared some forms of exercise that are great for helping to shift the pounds and tone muscles.

You can read the previous post: HERE

Our physical approach, our mental attitude and our emotions are all factors in how we overcome disease and obesity, and should all be addressed when looking for the right programme that will work for each individual.

Weight loss and the power of sleep

As I have already established, healthy weight loss is not just about calories in and calories out. Although that is the basic principal of losing fat, there are so many other elements to consider, that are emotionally, physically and mentally critical to a successful outcome.

In the last few months we have explored the impact of stress, emotional and physical, types of foods that are nutrient dense, willpower and exercise. Another daily activity that also has a part to play in maintaining a healthy balance in our bodies is sleep. I have posted before in the various weight loss series but it is worth reminding ourselves how important this period in our day is to us.

If you are trying to lose weight…sleep is one of your most powerful diet aids.

You might wonder why weight loss and sleeping go together.

Well apart from the fact you won’t be putting any calories in during that time; your body will be processing those you ate the day before. If you consistently only have five or six hours of sleep not only has that process not been completed efficiently, but you wake up wanting to dive into carbohydrates and as many sugary coffees you can get your hands on.

Over a period of time as your body loses energy it will demand that you top up more frequently and consume sugars to keep it going… Before you know it your weight is going steadily upwards.

Sleep is essential for the recovery of the body and mind. It is the time of day when organs continue to function, but calmly enough to be able to carry out diagnostics and repairs ready to face the next active 16 hours.

Without this down time every night you will find yourself vulnerable to physical and mental stress and if sleeplessness is a long term issue for you it can lead to a number of health problems.

The Power of Sleep

Sleep is as vital to humans as breathing, drinking water and following a healthy diet.

We need exercise and movement throughout the day, to keep us supple and fit, but you cannot run any operating system for 24 hours per day, 7 days per week for 70 or 80 years without carrying out essential maintenance.

If we are doing our bit, we should be providing the body with the raw food materials it needs to process, manufacture and rebuild our bodies internally and externally. For many of us, however, the ingredient our bodies are deprived of most is sleep.

During the day, our normal activities help our bodies to excrete toxins but the body also needs time to heal, rejuvenate and rest.

Most of the day our body is focusing on keeping you upright and able to accomplish every task you set yourself, including providing you with a functional immune system.

At night your body can concentrate on cleansing and restoring all the operating functions, ready for the next day.

beating heart GIF

For example: the heart normally beats 82 times in a minute.

That is 4,920 times an hour – 118,080 times a day – 826,560 times a week – Almost 43 million heartbeats a year. That is a huge amount of work for the organ that keeps us alive!

However, when we are asleep our hearts beat at around 60 beats per minute, or lower. This means that for 8 hours of the day our heart will beat 28,800 instead of 39,360 times, which is a saving of 10,560 for those down time hours.

If you multiply that over a year you will be saving nearly 4 million heartbeats. Take that in relation to our life-span of an average of 80 years, and your heart will have to work 320 million heartbeats less, saving wear and tear on this vital organ.

With regard to weightloss, your heart will also have to beat less as you lose weight which is one of the reasons that being close to a healthy weight is so important.

The same principal applies to the rest of the body and its operating systems. Your lungs will work less as your breathing slows during the night. Your muscles will rest and recuperate and your brain will undergo diagnostic tests and repairs while you sleep.

Most mental disorders, including depression and Alzheimer’s, are linked to various sleep disorders, some resulting from drugs used to control the disease or from changes in parts of the brain that normally regulate sleep patterns. There are also some concerns that sleep aids, particularly prescribed medication used long term may result in mental impairment. (As always do not stop taking any prescribed medication without consulting your doctor.)

Our dream states are important as it is part of your brain’s downtime function as it sorts information, filing and in some cases deleting unimportant information or spam, much as we do with our computers.

Going without sleep affects hormonal balance, and therefore our mood and stress levels. The glands that produce these hormones, such as the adrenal glands, are on constant alert and have no chance to rest and rejuvenate.

As in the case of a rowdy neighbour it is “one up, all up”. The knock-on effect of having all these hormones rampaging around the body is that nobody gets any rest, leading to physical, mental and emotional problems.

Performance levels will decrease without proper sleep and our reactions and internal processes will be impaired. Research has shown that sleep deprivation has the same effect on driving performance as taking alcohol or drugs. People who do not get enough sleep become increasingly less sensitive to certain chemical reactions within the body and in the case of insulin this increases the risk to developing both diabetes and high blood pressure.

If you are tired then your body is trying to tell you something

Taking a nap is actually a way to catch up on your missing sleep. The most natural time for a nap is 8 hours after you have woken up in the morning and 8 hours before you go to bed.

This way it is unlikely to affect your ability to fall asleep at night. Even 20 minutes can actually revitalise you and rest your body ready for another 8 hours of activity.

Make yourself comfortable, loosen your clothes and just close your eyes. Even if you do not fall asleep your body will relax and everything from your muscles to your brain will benefit.

Getting to sleep at night

Unless you are Mediterranean, and used to eating late at night from childhood, avoid having dinner just before you go to bed. Leave at least two hours – and if it has been very spicy then leave for at least three hours.

I have no idea how anyone can go out for a night drinking, eat a curry and go to bed and not suffer a dreadful night’s sleep.

Alcohol can be a stimulant and whilst excessive amounts may make you sleepy it is going to wake you up four hours later with a raging thirst and a thumping headache. Once in while you may get away with it but if it is the norm you will become seriously sleep deprived.

Sitting up too late, watching an action thriller is not the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Those lucky individuals who have dogs who need walking, benefit from both the physical activity and the fresh air before hitting the pillow, and if you can safely take a stroll at night then it is an excellent idea.

Make sure that there is plenty of airflow in the bedroom and sleep in comfortable clothes. I have no idea how people manage in button up pyjamas as they must be so restrictive and you will be moving around quite a bit at night and getting tangled up in both bedclothes and your nightie is going to disturb you.

I find that, however late I go to bed, reading a few pages of a book is guaranteed to help me drop off.

Many people have discovered their own sleep triggers over the years, including warm baths with Epsom salts, herbal teas such as Kava Kava and Valerian, and gentle music that drowns out the noise of neighbours, or a snoring partner.

Earplugs can be very useful, particularly if you are sharing a bed with a snorer, although you may miss the alarm clock in the morning.

If you are going to bed at more or less the same time every night you will find, within a very short space of time, you will wake at about the same time every morning.

In fact, it is a good idea to follow the same sleep patterns all week rather than opt for a lie in at the weekend. It establishes a healthy downtime for the body and does not confuse it for two days every week.

Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and research is increasingly showing that it is also vital for the development of our brains.

Children who do not get sufficient sleep will develop behavioural and learning difficulties as well as compromise their immune systems and future health.

Keeping your children up with you late at night is not healthy. They need far more sleep than we do during their rapid growth spurts. Make sure that they have a nap during the day about half way through their active hours and get them into the habit of getting at least 10 hours sleep per night.

When they are very young you will obviously be waking them for feeds and then for potty training but you must always try and ensure that they are kept calm and are put back down as quickly as possible. This will also be healthier for you as this is the time when most parents are likely to suffer from sleep deprivation.

The next crisis for those of you with teenagers is when they fail to return before 2.00 in the morning.

Stages of sleep

There are a number of different stages of sleep and it is important that you go through the entire cycle to reap all the benefits.

There are two main phases. In phase one you will be going through Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep or NREM. There are different stages within this phase which naturally lead you to phase two or Rapid Eye Movement sleep or REM.

Phase one NREM

Stage One. This is the lightest stage of sleep and although your main senses are turned down they are not off completely and you can be disturbed by certain noises such as snoring, dogs barking or doors slamming.

Stage Two. If you get into this stage you will fall deeper asleep and your heart rate and temperature will begin to level out and drop. This stage represents about half your night’s sleep.

Stage Three and Four are the deepest stages of NREM and represent about 15% of your night’s sleep. Your breathing will slow; your temperature will drop further as will your blood pressure.

Phase two REM

  • After about 30 minutes in stage four NREM sleep you begin to move back to stage one and two where your brain will become more active and you will begin to dream.
  • If you are woken up at this point in the cycle you are likely to remember the dream you were experiencing at the time.
  • If you have reached one of the NREM stages then you are not as likely to recall anything when you wake up.
  • This cycle of phase one and two takes approximately 90 minutes and then begins again.
  • To really benefit from this combination of rest and activity you need to complete at least 5 cycles during the night.
  • This adds up to approximately 8 hours of sleep.
  • If you only manage one or two cycles then your brain and body will not have completed its cleansing process and you will feel tired.
  • If this becomes the norm you will begin to notice the symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Sleep is as essential as air, water and food and if you are not currently enjoying a good night’s sleep then you need to work towards finding a solution.

I hope you have found this series on healthy weightloss helpful and if you have any questions please feel free to email me on

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2022

A little bit about me nutritionally. .

About Sally Cronin

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-four years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain.

Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 21 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

You can buy my books from: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – Follow me :Goodreads – Twitter: @sgc58 – Facebook: Sally Cronin – LinkedIn: Sally Cronin

40 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Size Matters: The Sequel – #Morbid Obesity – The power of sleep when losing weight and to be healthy by Sally Cronin

  1. I know sleep is important but I had no idea how important especially to our long term well-being. There’s a lot of information embedded in this post that I’ll need to read over again to fully grasp. Point being, I need more sleep. Thanks Sally, hugs, C

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Two months ago, I gave up sleeping pills. I’d read about the link between them and dementia. I’ve gotten to the point where I stay up a little longer, but I usually go to sleep fairly quickly, which is a positive change for me.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I sleep anywhere..head, pillow, and die are what I do…smile…although since I have been going for an early morning walk every day (7pm) I no longer stay up late I turn my laptop off at 8pm ..get ready for bed and read until about half nine and then its sleep until I wake at 5.30 I agree to have a regular bedtime the body wakes you at the same time each day…since I have been doing this I feel much better and more alert throughout the day…Scheduled to share this afternoon…Thank you for another informative post, Sally Hugs xx

    Liked by 3 people

    • You sound like my wife, Carol. I’m amazed at how quickly she can fall asleep. Meanwhile, her prima donna husband has to have everything just right (cool temperature, darkened room, etc.) I stay up late until my eyes can’t stay open anymore.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m not at all obese, but good sleep is something that’s eluded me all my life. So as I’ve tried everything, I think, I’ve decided acceptance is the only way forward.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column – Size Matters: The Sequel – #Morbid Obesity – The power of sleep when losing weight and to be healthy by Sally Cronin | Retired? No one told me!

  6. Very helpful information, Sally. These last years, my sleep patterns have shifted, and your advice is spot-on. Thank you. 🤗

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for such a brilliant series, Sally. This last one is very interesting as I’d not considered sleep as an essential part of weight loss.
    I don’t usually have problems with sleep except on occasion when I’ll wake at around 2 or 3o’clock and will be unable to get back to sleep for a couple of hours. Fortunately it doesn’t happen very often. I usually go to bed around 11, fall asleep fairly quickly and wake about 7. (Except for the inevitable trip to the loo around 3 am. Part of growing older!)

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I am bad about getting enough sleep. If I get at least six I’m doing good 🙂 Reading does help, unless I’m at an exciting part.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Excellent information. I’ve noticed when I don’t get enough sleep, I’m ravenous. All I want to do is eat. I’ve established a strict night time schedule that has really helped me get the sleep I need. Love this post and can’t wait for the book, Sally. 🧡

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Sleep is definately a problem at times. I think I don’t sleep but probably do more than i know.
    My husband says I have sleep apnia and wake myself up?
    On a school or grandson day I might just drop off asleep at 9 and wake to find I have missed that programme I wanted to watch on TV. This is often a deep sleep for half an hour or more?
    I think I might have to try a bit of reading but perhaps not feel too stressed that I might need a quick nap sometime.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Your additional photos and images are always so wonderful to keep the written word in mind. I fully agree to the importance of sleep, Sally! With less sleep i am dayover eating whatever i can get. Therefore only coffee is helping a little bit to avoid looking again like a bowl. Lol hugsx Michael

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Thanks for all the wonderful information, Sally. My sleep has definitely changed as I’ve grown older. I can function well on 6-7 hours, getting up way too early at this time of my life. I wish I could sleep in a little longer, but then again, I love taking advantage of the daylight hours. Sometimes, it’s hard falling asleep, but other times if I read at night, that will help as long as I can shut my mind off. 🙂 xo

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Lauren and as we get older we do tend to need less sleep. We get up at the same time every morning and find the routine helps. If I eat too late at night I find I am wired when I go to bed so find a light supper helps before 7.00.. I have no idea how people go out drinking for the evening and end up with a curry or take away afterwards.. I must be getting old lol ♥


  13. There is so much information in this post, Sally. I think I’m going to need to read it several times to really take in everything you share about healthy sleep, mealtimes, sleep disorders, etc. Once in a while I take an OTC p.m. medicine, and I feel guilty about it every time. I would love to throw away my whole supply and never buy it again. I’m off to share this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Amy.. sleep deprivation is extremely stressful and that has a knock on effect on the whole body phyically and mentally. Like so many things in our lives it is unique to our individual situation and sometimes chemical balance. I suggest you keep a sleep diary for a few weeks including the foods you have eaten and when, your exercise during the day and your fluid intake including timing. For example… If you eat a healthy amount of vegetables with your main meal, they are particularly high in water content. That is extracted during processing by the digestive system and whilst the body may use some of that fluid it produces quite a bit of excess. I have experimented and if I eat my vegetables at breakfast time with just one or two root vegetables at lunchtime I don’t get up as much at night. Which is why having a vegetable frittata for breakfast, protein and pasta or rice at lunchtime may lead to a better night’s sleep without compromising your nutrient intake. hugsxx

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s incredible. I eat tons of cruciferous vegetables (in addition to other veg), but almost always at the evening meal. The way you explain it, it makes all kinds of sense to front-load the vegetables high in water early in the day.

        At the moment, my dog is being treated for cancer. The medicine she’s taking with the chemo keeps her awake much of the night, which keeps me awake much of the night. She’ll be off that particular med in a couple weeks, so we’re all looking forward to getting back to normal sleep patterns. A sleep diary would probably be more telling once we’ve gotten over this bump in the road. But a food diary is a great idea, too. I have kept them in the past and found that I lose weight each time. They’re time-consuming, which is why I don’t tend to stick with them. I need to make a better effort. xo

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I had heard that one of the benefits of a good night’s sleep was its impact on weight loss. Like Colleen and Michael, if I don’t have enough sleep I crave food and can graze all day! ♥♥

    Liked by 1 person

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