Jan 18, 2018

What makes for a happy sleep

We all start most days planning to get an early night. But, for many, it rarely materialises beyond a good intention. And every morning you max out on your snooze allowance before dragging yourself out of bed and kickstarting your day with a strong coffee. By the time you’ve slumped yourself at your desk, just before 9, you know that the chance of an early night is nothing more than a pipe dream.

You’re exhausted. You need to get those precious 8 hours in before it all starts all over again.

Unfortunately, busy lifestyles breed busy minds and it seems like a relentless circle that never ends. When you do finally make it back into your bed, your mind races making you feel anxious and unable to unwind. 

But sleep is so important to your overall health and plays a crucial role in your ability to manage daily life. In fact, its up there with diet and exercise. And a good combination of all three will help you to control your weight, feel more energetic and prevent conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

If you already have diabetes, sleep problems are likely to be nothing new. Difficulty falling asleep in the first place, or even staying in a deep sleep, could be happening as a result of your blood glucose control and your blood sugar levels being too high or too low. This is often a problem when you have had a long period without food (such as overnight) or after you have eaten too many calories, for example, during the evening.

But we’ve all been guilty of slipping into unhealthy daytime habits which spiral into bad lifestyle choices. The problem then seems to escalate when these choices leave you tossing and turning all night – and you’re constantly tired. But worry not, there are lots of hints and tips you can take on board to try and achieve happy sleep.

Let’s start with some exercise. People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel more energetic during the day. Try to keep the high impact, cardio exercises for earlier in the day and more relaxing routines, such as yoga for the evening. Exercising too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep, so aim to finish working out at least three hours before bedtime.

And with exercise comes a good appetite and speedy metabolism. But try to make sensible food choices. Eat less sugary foods and refined carbs during the day and don’t indulge in a large evening meal. White bread, white rice and pasta all trigger wakefulness and interrupt a long, deep sleep, while spicy and acidic foods can cause heartburn and discomfort. But remember, regardless of what you eat, you may have to fight off the after-dinner drowsiness. Don’t give in and nap on the sofa - early evening napping only leads to feeling wide awake at bedtime.

Instead, why not do something a little more stimulating like calling a friend, getting your clothes ready for the next day or even preparing a light snack to enjoy before bed. For some, this can make going to sleep more difficult, but if you do feel inclined, why not try a small turkey sandwich, a bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal, a yoghurt, a banana or even a glass of milk. Create a nice, calm end to the day.

It goes without saying that caffeine and nicotine should be avoided. These are both unhealthy stimulants and will disrupt sleep - in fact caffeine can keep you awake for up to twelve hours after drinking it, so plan your coffee breaks well during the day. 

Alcohol before bed is also a no-go. You may fall asleep easily, but once you’re asleep, it plays havoc with your sleep cycle leaving you feeling more tired the next day.

A sleep cycle really isn’t something you want to be interrupted either. Your body will take on a natural sleep-wake schedule and sticking to this as much as you can will mean you achieve the best sleep possible. A regular pattern of sleep will leave you feeling refreshed and energised. Simple strategies like going to sleep and getting up at the same time every day, and avoiding a lie-in at the weekends, will help your body to manage and regulate its own sleep pattern. 

Being smart about napping is also advisable. Whilst it may seem like good logic to catch up on lost sleep with a quick doze, it can make getting to sleep at night even harder. Napping simply confuses your body clock. But, if it’s a necessity, limit naps to 15-20 minutes in the early afternoon.

You also need to think about creating the right environment to promote a good sleep. Sleeping in the day isn’t as easy because your brain secretes less melatonin when it’s light - making you more alert. So when it is time to sleep, make sure the room is dark and say no to late-night television.  We’ve all fallen into the bad habit of using your smartphone just before bed. Try not to. In fact, where possible, avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime.

That’s just a small selection of simple changes that you can make to give yourself a better chance of a good night’s sleep. Tossing and turning all night can have a negative effect on your mood as well as your health and weight. And for people with diabetes, a good night’s sleep can make all the difference.

If you feel you may be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and would like to know a little more about the signs and symptoms, then register for a free account at www.equalibras.co.uk today where you can also view hints and tips on energy-boosting recipes and exercise routines…great for at home or in the workplace.

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