Sleep your way to better health

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Sleep is a vital part of staying healthy. If you regularly miss out on sleep, it can impact your brain function, waistline, fertility, immune system and hormone balance. It can even place you at risk of lifestyle diseases like diabetes.

So why aren’t we getting enough sleep? It could come down to technology. As amazing as they can be, online devices have created a culture of being “always on”, meaning we’re working longer hours, sending emails from home, getting notifications at all hours and generally finding it tough to switch off. It’s easy for sleep to be the first thing that suffers.

So how much sleep do we actually need?

Ideally, the average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours, but everyone is different. Some people can cope with much less sleep. The amount of sleep you need can also change during different life stages.

Can YOU eat your way to better sleep?

Lack of sleep can also make you feel hungrier, and often grumpier. When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin (a hormone that makes you feel hungry) goes up and your level of leptin (a hormone that tells your brain you are full) goes down. Eating and drinking to help promote a better sleep goes beyond avoiding caffeine and heart-burn inducing foods. A number of studies have found a range of nutrients may help you to fall asleep faster and sleep soundly. These nutrients include:

Selenium: studies show that a lack of selenium may play a role in sleep abnormalities. You can top up your supplies by eating Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds.

Magnesium: getting enough magnesium has been linked to sleep quality. To boost your magnesium levels eat green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale.

Vitamin D: there has been a strong link between lack of vitamin D and excessive sleepiness during the day. As well as sunshine, you can get vitamin D from mushrooms and some fortified milks like soy milk.

Melatonin: this is a hormone produced by the brain that is linked with how our body prepares for sleep. It is also found in some plant foods, including pineapples, bananas and oranges.

How I can get a better night’s sleep

Work out. Exercise regularly to boost your energy levels throughout the day. In the evening, wind down by choosing quieter activities after dinner. For extra relaxation, try having a technology hiatus before bed, giving your mind and body time to switch off.

Drink up. Stay well hydrated throughout the day. Keep a water bottle at your desk or in your bag to remind you to drink up. However, ease off before bed, to reduce night-time trips to the bathroom.

Switch off. Turn off screens, including TV, radio and mobiles, to help your mind switch off before bed. Try avoiding having any technology in your bedroom at all. 

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