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- Written by Aimee Sics
Feeling irritable of late? Not bouncing out of bed in the morning, ready to hit the day running? We often think of a healthy lifestyle as eating well and staying active, but poor sleep can have a major impact on our wellbeing. A lack of quality sleep can adversely affect our mood and daytime performance, and also heighten levels of stress and anxiety.
Sleep is crucial to our body being able to produce all sorts of elements for our immune system - studies have shown that by not getting enough deep sleep, our ability to fight off infection is severely decreased .
Furthermore, stage five of our sleep cycle is known as REM- rapid eye movement – and this is the stage we associate with dreaming . Dreams are a form of psychotherapy – one way of our brain helping us deal with the emotions of the day. Think of it as flushing the toxins from your brain: a well-rested brain means we're ready to tackle the day ahead.
In these challenging times, there have been an increasing number of people experiencing insomnia or sleep-related problems. A change in lifestyle factors — such as having a baby, menopause, moving house, adolescence — can also have an impact.
Yes, yes —no. That 5pm cup of coffee may taste good, but might not be the best idea. Caffeine is known to hinder a restful sleep  — the stimulant decreases the amount of REM sleep and tends to increase the amount of times we wake up. Alcohol can also reduce the quality of our sleep too — having that little 'nightcap' can actually lead to more awakenings as the alcohol metabolizes later in the night. Additionally, try to avoid going to sleep on a full or empty stomach as this can interfere with your body being able to rest properly.
Any kind of exercise – gentle or moderate – is good for us and certainly improves our sleep quality. Morning or night is fine, but as a rule, not right before bed. Make the most of natural light in your day too, as this helps with your body clock and levels of melatonin in the body, another key ingredient to good sleep.
Our internal body clock and hormones control our sleepiness and alertness, and when there is a regular sleeping routine in place, our clock is at its optimum. This means you will feel sleepy when it's time to hit the hay — and try not to make up for lost time. If you had a late night last night, try not to compensate by going to bed earlier tonight as this type of behaviour can rebound.
It's a vicious cycle – you can't sleep because you know you must sleep. Sleep isn't something we can force, so if you're still tossing and turning after 30 minutes, get up and move to another dark or dimly lit room and spend some time just resting or reading. Try not to get frustrated that you can't sleep and just remember that any rest is better than none, as we're still giving our body and mind some timeout.
You know the drill, but we'll tell you again: avoid a brightly lit environment at least one hour before bed. This includes staring at a computer screen, playing on your phone, watching TV or any bright-lighted activities, as these can reduce the levels of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.
Myths have been busted about cheese giving you nightmares ; so you can help yourself to that Gouda after dinner if you please. Pair that with a fibre rich diet — which has been proven to be linked to better sleep in some adults  —and expect some quality sleep heading your way.
All in all, it's important that we all practice some self-care, and remember to be kind to ourselves. Good health and wellbeing is key to good sleeping habits, however for any sleeping issues that continue for longer than a month, it's time to seek some help from your GP before it becomes a chronic problem✨
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