Hello everyone

I expect you remember that I’ve participated in the Zoe Covid Symptom Study ever since the beginning of the pandemic. That has meant logging ones symptoms on an App even when well, which for us, apart from colds, was where we were most of the time. With 4 million participants this academic study was able to look at all the known Covid symptoms as they changed and mutated over time. In fact, they were able to say with absolute confidence that the main Covid symptoms changed hugely from the classic 3 symptoms that were promulgated in the first year of the pandemic. And yet the government ignored this. You can wonder why, but I won’t say any more about that as that’s a question to be answered in My Other Blog.


The Zoe Covid study was, and still is, a very significant and well-research body of work run by Professor Tim Spector of King’s College, London, but you may not know that Prof Spector’s main interest is the microbiome and the food we eat. The Zoe Covid app has now transmogrified into the the Zoe Health Study app and the team behind Zoe have begun many other studies including one on Intermittent Fasting. It’s an exciting time for Zoe as usually any research study takes time to set up and includes anything around 50-100 individuals. But Zoe is revolutionising research through its App participants: because, amazingly, they can study over 100,000 people at a time, and what is rather nice is they call us Citizen Scientists. The Intermittent Fasting study has currently over 100,000 participants.


Yes, I am participating in the Intermittent Fasting study. Before I get into the how you do it and what you do, I’ll tell you why I’m doing it.


I’ve read a little about IF and joined the Facebook group (The Big IF Study Community) before I started the study. Not everyone either likes IF or gets any benefits but what I have read is that some people do find that there are considerable benefits to restricting ones diet between fewer hours. Btw, this is not a ‘diet’ as you are not restricting your food, in fact you eat as normal but just between certain hours.


Benefits might be lowered blood sugars, reduced inflammation, reduction of cholesterol, (and I do say might as research of the benefits is in its early days, which is why the very large Zoe study is going to make a big contribution to the relatively small body of research that already exists). Other benefits that are thrown around are that fasting helps heart and brain health and extends life (but note, that’s in rats).


However, from the Facebook group I could see some people are very happy with their results and talk about better sleep and reduced joint pain. Well, that’s me in. Anything that will help my sleep and my arthritis (yup, I have that) is worth trying.


You see, I have an appalling sleep pattern. It goes – I sleep hardly at all one night and then sleep heavily the next. This crept up on my a few years ago (?5) and the pattern would last a couple of those non-sleeping nights. Then the pattern got longer until I think it was 2020 when it lasted weeks. I then did an online CBT course, which meant restricting ones hours. Didn’t work for me.


And btw, I have tried everything else; you name it, I’ve tried it. I remember some of you suggesting all sorts of things – well I tried most of them. But I don’t take meds until recently when I bought an over the counter product that is actually a histamine, one that makes you sleepy. It sort of works but I’m really sensitive to drugs of any kind and the dose of 2 tabs would send me into a coma! So I take 1 tab if absolutely necessary as it really makes me feel zombie-like the next day!  Hate all meds, really.


What did work this summer was I bought Michael Moseley’s book Fast Asleep and followed the chapter on do-it-yourself CBT. This meant going to bed every day for 2 months at 12.30pm and getting up at the same time at 6.30. You do not, btw, stay up for the 12.30 deadline in the bedroom as the bed and the bedroom is only for sleeping and nothing else. You are effectively retraining your brain to see the bed as a place to sleep. And boy do you get tired! But it worked, I ended it and for several months I slept reasonably well. But the pattern has begun again.


Anyway, I have started the IF study, and all you have to do is Week 1 you eat normally, Week 2 you begin the 10-hour window and I have just completed this first week. You restrict yourself to the 10-hour window for 3 weeks and then you continue (or extend as they call it) if you want to. I believe they give you a survey at the end, and you will get some personal information back and the satisfaction that you have contributed to a huge and very worth-while research study.


However, I hadn’t realised though that this simple 10-hour rule needed big, really BIG, changes in my eating pattern. You see I usually start the day with a mug of tea, with milk, at 7.0am with breakfast at 8.0am. I then don’t eat much at lunch, then an evening meal at 6.0pm. Followed by, oh dear, biscuits and milk at 10pm. And then, oh my word, more snacks on a non-sleeping night! These snacks were more milk and biscuits if I was awake at 2.0am, and then if I was still awake at 3.0am I’d have a cup of (decaffeinated) tea.  Sometimes those snacks helped me get to sleep. .


Well, if I have a 10-hour window that ends at 6.30pm I can’t eat until 8.30am which means no cup of tea with milk at 7.0am and black tea is so bitter. Not to worry, it’s taken a week to find (with help from the Facebook group) how nice White Tea is – it’s lovely mellow cuppa, I might continue with this type of tea for ever more. And then if one finishes the 10-hour window at 6.30pm that means NOTHING to eat or drink apart from herbal teas, and NO biscuits and NO milk and NO midnight feasts whatsoever.


Of course, people can choose any 10-hour window with people who work often choosing to end their 10-hour window much, much later in the day. A recent YouTube video from the IF study revealed that the later 10-hour participants eat more snacks while the earlier 10-hour window people have fewer. I can vouch for that as I don’t eat any snacks now. And oh my word I have lost weight (just a lb) and even better, inches especially around my belly area, which is exactly where I am happy to lose a bit of flesh! But I shall watch the weight situation.


Meantime I am finding it quite hard to not eat after 6.30pm but the hunger pangs are lessening and of course, you can drink as much as you like as long as it’s herbal. I am also finding that the non-sleeping nights are challenging without a cup of tea to help me go off to sleep at 3.0am.


But on the whole I am very pleased to be participating in this research study. I shall keep you all posted with my progress and let you know how I get on. The reduced belly fat is the only benefit for me so far, but I’m only a week in.  If I can sleep better that will be a huge improvement to my health and well-being – watch this space!


Here is the link to the Zoe IF study.


That’s all for now, but do tell me if you have sleep problems or done any fasting or are currently fasting – any tips as to how to get through it is most welcome 🙂


With love Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper


Health & Wellbeing: My sleep and eating patterns

23 thoughts on “Health & Wellbeing: My sleep and eating patterns

  • 26th November 2022 at 1:01 pm

    I’ve also been in the Zoe research from the early days and signed up for the IF study.
    On the positive side I’m not hungry at all, not craving any sugary, stodgy foods which I usually do in winter. Not so bloated either.
    Not noticed any reduction in pain or fatigue levels ( but I do have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome) When I do sleep I sleep well but will still have sleepless nights ( par for the course with fibro)
    But research is valuable, and the Zoe App allows , as you said, huge numbers of subjects at minimum cost which is a great advantage.

    • 26th November 2022 at 3:53 pm

      Oh that’s great Pauline. Even after one week I feel less bloated – think I was addicted to those biscuits which were always Digestive. Sorry to hear that you have fibromyalgia but the Facebook group seems to indicate that the benefits kick in after some time. Let’s see how we go!

      Thanks Pauline 🙂

  • 26th November 2022 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Penny
    I LOVE your posts but I don’t like the colour of the live links, which are coming over as pale pinky-mauve on my iPhone.

    • 26th November 2022 at 3:47 pm

      Hi Jen – can you see that we’ve changed the title to a darker typeface and the links to a darker pink colour – does that work for you?

      Yes, we had noted the paleness of the links but I think we were so traumatised (!) by the IT situation earlier this week and last week that we just hadn’t got round to it. Let me know if you think it’s better.

  • 26th November 2022 at 1:42 pm

    On a normal day we have finished dinner by 7pm and we get up at ten past eight, weird huh. Thirteen hours. We sleep quite well although I usually get up around 3, loo visit, my husband sleeps through. Although I know someone who did this for weight loss and it worked, this has not been my experience, unfortunately. We started doing it as I was suffering from indigestion, it cleared that up. The survey sounds very interesting I will have a look at it.

    You might like to try white tea without milk. It’s not bitter. Have a good weekend.

    • 28th November 2022 at 3:40 pm

      Ah yes, I remember you telling me that you eat within certain hours. And lucky you, only once! Twice for me and sometimes more during the non-sleeping nights.

      The IF study will I think produce some significant findings. And I do have the White tea without milk – it is very nice and much better than black ordinary tea.

      Thanks Flora 🙂

  • 26th November 2022 at 2:04 pm

    Breakfast at 7.30am after a cup of de caf tea.
    Lunch at lunchtime for example today we had plaice and potato wedges
    (prepared by me) for the air fryer plus veg.
    Probably will have a snack around 4.30pm then just lemon & ginger tea.
    So quite a long fast but it works for me Penny. Not able to do this if we go to friends or family though!
    All the best and thank you for all the information you pass on Penny x

    • 28th November 2022 at 3:42 pm

      Yes, that’s quite a long fast.

      I can’t do a large midday meal apart from when entertaining people on a Sunday as that amount of food during the day usually makes me feel sleepy and kind of interrupts my routine.

      Thanks Vivien 🙂

  • 26th November 2022 at 2:07 pm

    Forgot I have a biscuit first thing with the cup of de caf tea then about 2pm
    2 Wholemeal digestive biscuits and de caf tea

    • 28th November 2022 at 3:43 pm

      I’m trying to give up the Digestives – think I was addicted to them!

  • 26th November 2022 at 2:10 pm

    An interesting article Penny, we have changed our main meal to lunchtime and at six pm we will have soup in winter or a fruit smoothie in summer all home made.Then we won’t eat again till the following morning breakfast at 8 am. We have been doing this since the first lockdown and feel so much better for it.Have a wonderful weekend
    Kind regards Margaret

    • 26th November 2022 at 3:50 pm

      For the moment it suits our lifestyle to have our main meal in the early evening. But I already feel far less bloated than I used to feel after eating all those biscuits – I think I was addicted to them!

      Thanks Margaret 🙂

  • 26th November 2022 at 5:59 pm

    I usually finish eating around 5 pm, and then don’t eat again until 8 am, which works well for me. I do get quite ravenous in the late morning, so my largest meal is lunch. I think that my mattress and pillows were not very comfortable, so I got a woollen mattress protector and two woollen pillows from thewoolroom.com. These are really comfy and cosy, even in the summer, and I don’t wake up sweating. I don’t sleep a lot, but these have really helped.

    • 28th November 2022 at 3:54 pm

      It’s so interesting reading people’s experiences of IF. Can’t eat a lunch as it interrupts the day and makes me sleepy. The excellent thing it’s done so far is it’s broken my addiction to Digestive biscuits!

      Funnily enough our bed isn’t the best – long story short we’ve ordered a new bed. It has a Hypnos mattress which has springs plus an in-fill of wool. Will look at the pillows on that link – thanks so much 🙂

  • 26th November 2022 at 6:25 pm

    Hi Penny, I was so pleased to read your blog this wek. I have been intermittent fasting for 3 or 4 years now. Throughout my life I naturally found it hard to eat early in the day and when working would take something to eat later morning or wait and have a sandwich at lunchtime but would drink tea during the morning. Then I was diagnosed pre-diabetic (familial) and a few years later age 64 had an ‘out of the blue’ heart attack. Wow, what a warning that was! It resulted in a big turnaround for me with upping my exercise (thanks cardiac rehab!) and revising my diet through trial and error. My GP suggested various health related podcasts. I now eat low carb with more healthy fats, eat plenty of live yogurt, nuts, fruit, veg and avocados, and a moderate amount of fish, eggs and meat. I start to eat brunch somewhere around 1pm, and may have a snack with a cup of decaf tea late afternoon. Dinner is around 7.30. Occasionally I have a snack of almonds or maybe a small bag of crisps around 10pm. I go to bed around midnight and get up at 8.30am in the hope of getting 6 or 7 hours sleep. After my heart attack I lost a couple of stones and now hover around 8st (I’m 5ft). Over the last couple of years I’ve had both knees replaced (arthritis for years) and what an amazing difference that’s made. I’m a ‘relatively’ healthy 70 years old and am convinced that exercise, diet and intermittent fasting has made a positive difference for me. I heartily recommend it.

    • 28th November 2022 at 3:58 pm

      It’s so interesting reading about your health, both positive and negative. Well done you for taking control and losing some necessary weight which can only help your heart health. I too think exercise, diet and most likely even this IF will make a huge difference to my health and well being. So far it has broken my addiction to biscuits!

      Thanks Jane 🙂

  • 27th November 2022 at 5:13 am

    I am a night owl so I don’t get up until 8:30 or 9. I usually have breakfast around 10, lunch at noon, and dinner at 6. After that, nothing else to eat. I’m not a snacker when I’m no stressed. But, the last few years I really packed on the pounds so I’m struggling to lose that. My husband recently received news of heart issues so we’re going to be looking quite a bit at the Mediterranean diet. We are not big veg eaters so that will be a challenge! My daughter did IF for quite a bit and found it just didn’t suit her lifestyle. In fact, she would eat more because she was so hungry from limiting her time for eating. I look forward to hearing more!


    • 28th November 2022 at 4:10 pm

      I am finding this study both a challenge and a delight because I am absolutely delighted to not stuff myself with biscuits (cookies to you !) through the evening and into the night! I was addicted.

      Isn’t interesting how different people are! I am a lark and often get up even earlier than 7.0am. But eating breakfast at 8.30am is essential for me now if I am to stop eating after 6.30pm. The hunger pangs have lessened and I don’t have so much bloating. If it improves my sleep I shall be overjoyed!

      Thanks Marsha 🙂

  • 27th November 2022 at 7:05 pm

    My daughter has been doing the intermittent fasting for some time now. she finds it helps her manage her weight without feeling too deprived. I have checked it out as well on a few other blogs and it does make sense. you don’t have to eat any special foods . I think for her it does restrict overall what one eats, so there is that. I think that the fact that you do go a long time giving your digestion a rest is also beneficial. I do wonder if eating ones biggest meal in the middle of the day is often best. when I worked this is pretty much I did, eating something light, like a salad at night. I would be curious to see how the intermittent fasting works for you as you continue, as it may have additional benefits.
    I got into terrible sleep issues several years ago when I began to watch political news shows late at night, it was kind of a mild addiction. Of course I would eventually fall asleep but then I would awaken and not be able to get back to sleep. My mind would be all over the place. I am working on this, really trying to limit the watching. I have to remind myself that nothing awful or wonderful will be the least bit affected by my knowing about their happening in a timely manner. the other thing I do when my mind won’t settle is to remember my yoga. I trained for and actually taught yoga for a while. I start to compose classes in my head, I start with simple warmups and progress to more complex postures. I find that by the time I get to the standing ones I am asleep. That is it for now, Penny, Love, Darby

    • 28th November 2022 at 4:24 pm

      I am reallygoing to give this IF study a go and have already extended it one week which means the study has more to go on and you receive more information when you finally finish the study. Some people are obviously doing it for weeks.

      Already I feel less bloated and have broken my habit of eating biscuits (cookies) through the evening – I was addicted! So that means I have lost a bit of weight – I’ll watch that.

      As for sleep the pattern can start for any reason, often it’s digestive. And once it starts it’s hard to stop it. If we watch a serious documentary or say a dysfunctional SciFi or anything that might make you stay awake worrying we always watch something funny or silly before we go to bed so we go to bed chuckling or snorting and saying, ‘how ridiculous!’ And the news is banned at the end of the day – we tend to watch it in the morning.

      I often do a body scan meditation before I go to bed – sometimes that works well.

      Thanks so much Darby 🙂

  • 28th November 2022 at 9:22 am

    Thanks for this Penny. I always find lots of interesting things to read in your pages. I’ve signed up to the Big IF Study as a result. Have been reading about this on and off for a while now so thanks for giving me the impetus I needed. I snack when I am not hungry . I know it’s emotional eating. Excited to be taking part in a proper study.

    • 28th November 2022 at 4:27 pm

      Yes, same Steph, been reading about IF for sometime. There are some good videos around this particular study on YouTube – we have subscribed. Search for Zoe – it also has updates on the Covid situation.

      I was addicted to Digestive biscuits and was eating them in the evening, even if I wasn’t hungry!

  • 1st December 2022 at 2:25 pm

    I started IF in 2017 together with limiting my kilojoule intake to approx. 4000 per day. My eating window was from 12.30 to 8.30pm. I lost 10kgs in approx 6 months and managed to keep it off until this year when I dropped the IF and the kj control. I picked up the previous weight in no time. I have just started again. I prefer a bigger meal earlier in the day and a lighter one later. I have terrible indigestion all night otherwise.

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