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We all know that a good night’s sleep can be crucial to our general daily wellbeing. However, good quality sleep isn’t just important for getting through the daily grind.
So why is good quality sleep so important to our health and wellbeing? Sleep-deficiency isn't just something that can make you feel groggy, grouchy and unmotivated, it's also linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke – so it matters for our health in the long term.
In the shorter term, lack of quality sleep increases levels of the hunger hormone ‘ghrelin’, this causes us to eat more and generally be less satisfied with what we eat. So it can also affect your weight.
Falling asleep can be difficult, especially if you’re stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable, but there’s a natural sleep aid that’s easy and accessible to everyone — exercise. Research suggests that moderate physical activity can decrease instances of sleep complaints and insomnia, and can make a notable difference/improvement in sleep quality. Moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep (also referred to as deep sleep) you get each night. This category of sleep gives the brain and body a chance to rejuvenate, and can also help stabilize mood and benefit cognitive functioning.
And while exercise at all times of day is generally considered good for sleep, exercising at the right time can be even better. If the evening is your optimal exercise window, try working out at least 2 hours before bed; this gives your brain and body time to wind down. The exercise doesn’t have to be especially rigorous, try some light aerobic exercise like a jog, fast-paced walk, or even some yoga, stretching, or tai chi. After 30 – 90 minutes post workout, your body’s core temperature should return to normal, which makes for prime sleeping conditions.
Avoid caffeine after 4 pm, eating too late and alcoholic nightcaps. All have been proved to disrupt sleeping patterns. Did you know that caffeine has a 6 hour half-life? If you crave a hot-drink later in the day, make sure you switch to a de-caffeinated alternative.
Powernapping. If you need to nap in the daytime, keep it short. 20 minutes is restorative enough without disrupting your night-time routine.
Give screens a rest an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted from TVs, mobile phones and computer screens disrupts the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Timeframes work best. Try to set a reasonable and realistic time for going to bed and getting up in the morning.
Keep your bedroom cool. The body's core temperature needs to drop to initiate sleep, and cooler rooms help promote restorative, deeper sleep
Many of us experience feelings of anxiety at some point in our lives. We may feel on edge or in a heightened state of alert – which can be energy-sapping. If you feel like this, it’s important to feed those happy hormones to embrace living again.
Stay active – exercise releases endorphins, these natural chemicals in the brain enhance your sense of well-being.
Do something you love – engaging in activities we enjoy helps to distract from anything negative we are experiencing. Engaging in a hobby is a great way to calm our mind
Rediscover small things that spark joy. Indulge in your musical guilty pleasures, set yourself realistic challenges, experiment with cooking, connect with friends, start small projects that have a beginning, middle and end for a sense of achievement.
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