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Sleep & Stress

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People cope with and manage stress in different ways. Good levels of B vitamins are associated with helping stress and nerves and are necessary for the normal functioning of the nervous system. Passionflower is a traditional herbal medicinal used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress, such as mild anxiety.

Sleep is essential for our health and wellbeing, yet millions of us struggle to get enough of it and suffer as a result.

You might feel the most immediate effects of poor sleep in the general demise of your ability to function effectively throughout the day. You might find it hard to concentrate, feel cranky, over-emotional or stressed.

Of course, one night of short sleep won't put you at serious risk, but lack of adequate sleep over time can be extremely detrimental to both your physical and mental health. A disruption in your sleep cycle can contribute to cardiovascular disease. It's not completely clear why less sleep is detrimental to heart health, but it is thought that sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation. This in turn can increase a person’s risk of diabetes as it is believed that sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level.

Lack of sleep can also suppress the immune system. Certain disease-fighting substances are released or created while we sleep, so sleep deprivation can decrease the availability of these substances. This can leave us more susceptible to new viruses and bacteria.

In addition sleep and mood are closely connected; poor or inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress. People who experience sleep deprivation regularly may, therefore, experience high levels of emotion on a daily basis. And as this becomes a chronic condition an individual’s risk of developing mood disorders, such as or depression is increased.

Poor sleep quality also decreases levels of the fat-regulating hormone leptin while increasing the hunger hormone ghrelin. The resulting increase in hunger and appetite can easily lead to overeating resulting in obesity.

Your diet can play a key role in sleep patterns and magnesium levels are known to contribute to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue, and to promote sleep, we generally have poor levels of magnesium in modern day foods. Valerian is a traditional herbal medicine used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances due to symptoms of mild anxiety.

If you're really struggling with sleep, you should speak to a GP who will be able to help. But in the meantime, here are some simple tips that may help:

Follow a schedule all week – "Sleeping in" on weekends makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycles for a later awakening. Try instead going to bed at a set time each night and setting your alarm for the same time each morning. This has the added bonus of giving you extra time to be productive at the weekend.

Exercise daily – Try to exercise for 20 to 30 minutes every day. Daily exercise can help to use all of the energy you've stored from eating and so can help you sleep. When you workout is equally important because exercise can also cause a spike in adrenaline, which keeps your body in an alert state. For maximum benefit, try to get your exercise about five to six hours before going to bed.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol – These are all stimulants which increase your blood pressure and heartrate, keeping you awake. Cutting out caffeine could in the long run remove the desire for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up cappuccino.

Unwind before bed – Taking a warm bath, reading, or meditation before you go to bed can make it easier to fall sleep. Lavender is a naturally soothing scent which can be used to help lull you to sleep too. It's possible to train yourself to associate certain restful activities and smells with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.

Control your room temperature – Extreme temperatures can disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep in the first place, so try to maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom either by opening a window, using air conditioning or adapting the thermostat/heaters in your room.

Sleep until sunlight – Sunlighthelps the body's internal biological clock to reset itself each day so if possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. There are even alarm clocks that mimic the effect of the sun rising to wake you up gently every day.

Turn off all other lights – Light from under the door or electronic devices can be very disruptive to your sleep, particularly if the light is flashing. This is because your body is naturally programmed to wake up with light. So if you have a light on your phone, or any other device turn it off to give your body the best chance of uninterrupted sleep.

Put down your phone – And your laptop. These devices emit blue light, which can be disruptive to sleep. Put them down at least an hour before bed and maybe pick up a book instead.

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