5 Ways to improve your sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep is just as important for our health and wellbeing as having a healthy diet and getting regualr exercise.

Research has shown that poor sleep can have immediate negative effects on exercise performance, hormone levels and brain function.

Good sleep on the other hand, can help improve exercise performance, help you eat less and be generaly healthier.

Here are 5 tips to help you sleep better at night.

1. Control your light exposure.

Studies have shown that increasing your exposure to bright light during the day can have a positive effect on the quality of your sleep. These studies have mainly focused on people with severe sleep issues, but should also help improve your sleep if you have only moderate sleep problems.

The reason bright light exposure helps with sleep is becasue it helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. Circadian rhythm is also known as your body clock. This helps both night time sleep quality as well as daytime energy levels.

Conversely, reducing blue light exposure in the evening is also known to be beneficial to sleep. Blue light is emmited from electronic devices such as smartphones and computers. It has been shown to negatively effect your circadian rhythm by tricking your brain into thinking it is still daytime. This has an impact on hormone production and means certain relaxing hormones such as melatonin are reduced.

The best way of reducing the impact of blue light is to stop watching TV and turn off bright lights about 2 hours before going to bed.

 

2. Reduce caffeine intake late in the day.

Caffiene is known to have benefits such as increasing energy, focus and even sports performance. Unfortunately these energy boosting properties make it the enemy of good sleep. In one study it was shown consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed had a significant impact on sleep quality.

Caffeine has been shown to stay at elevated levels in the blood for upto 8 hours. Therefore caffeine intake after mid-afternoon is not recommended, especially if you are already having trouble sleeping.

 

3. Be consistent.

Your body’s circadian rhythm works in a set loop, aligning roughly with the sunrise and sunset. Becasue of this it is advisable to try and go to sleep and wake up at consistent times. It is tempting to go to bed and wake up later on the weekends, however studies have shown that those who have irregualr sleeping paterns and who go to bed later on the weekends have a lower quality of sleep.

 

4. Get the temperature right.

Body temperature has a massive impact on sleep quality. When it is too warm it can be very difficult to get to sleep, this is a problem that most people, even those that don’t normaly suffer from sleep problems, experience during the summer. Keeping your room at a constant temperature of around 70 degrees farenheit, or 20 degrees celcius, year round will help you sleep better.

 

5. Relax.

Instead of spending the last couple of hours before bed watching TV or spending time on your phones, it is advisable to spend some time relaxing each evening. Relaxing activities such as reading a book or taking a relaxing bath can lower your heart rate which is known to help you drift off into a deep sleep. Even if you don’t feel like taking a full bath before bed, you could try just bathing you feet in warm water.

Other techniques such as deep breathing and vizulization can also help you relax.

 

Sleep plays such a big role in our health that it should be made top priority if you wish to be in the best health you can be.

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New exercise goals

Having completed my first organised half-marathon on Sunday (9/9/18), I am now moving on to a few new excercise goals. In part because of the cold I had in the week leading up to my half-marathon I was dissapointing unable to acheive a PB, missing out by around 2 minutes. 1hr 47m:00s vs 1hr 45m:16s. Therefore a new half-marathon PB is still one of my goals, however, having spent the last couple of months focusing on longer runs in the build-up to this event it will be nice to be able to spend a little bit more time on shorter distances.

I am now looking at spending the next month or so trying to lower my 5km PB to below 20 minutes, it currently sits at 21m:04s. Along with this I would like to spend a bit more time in the gym doing some strength work as this has been a little bit on the back-burner for the last few weeks. For a while I have toyed with the idea of getting into yoga as a way of improving my flexability. For a stretch, to take me through to the new year I will look at improving my 10km PB as well, currently 45m:13s. Before again taking part in RED January to kick off 2019.

My first organised half-marathon.

Tomorrow (9/9/2018) I will be taking part in my first ever organised half marathon. This feels like a natural progression from the 10km organised runs I have done in the past. Although I have been running as part of my fitness regime for years, I have always found it difficult to motivate myself to really push as hard as I can. Organised runs have helped with this because they have given me a goal to train for, something to look towards.

My preparations for this half-marathon have gone unexpectadely well, for the first time that I can remember I have sustained no injuries whilst training for an event. My performances have greatly exceeded the targets set out in my training plan and I have even found sticking to the plan so much easier than I usually do. One thing I have done this time that differs from my usual training methods is that I have lowered the number of gym sessions I do compared to during non-training times. This has halped reduce burn out which has been a problem in the past. I have only done a couple of weight sessions a week at the gym during this training plan compared to my usual 3 or 4. I have also used other methods of cardio such as cycling as a boost when not running.

This last week I have been suffering from a bit of a cold, which does reduce my expectations for race day a small amount. Even so, I am excitedly hoping that by midday Sunday I will have a new half-marathon PB. I don’t have any future events planned as yet, but hope to find something that I can train towards in the near future.

Morning routine

I have recently been reading a lot on various ways to manage anxiety. One of the most commonly written about things has been the suggestion that a good morning routine can really help get your mind in the right place for the day ahead. With that in mind, I have decided to give a few of the suggestions a try. I will be documenting my progress with this over the next few weeks. I am aware that I will find this process difficult as I have never really got on well with overly structuring my life, but if there is any chance it can help it is worth a try.

Making the bed.

This is something that I never do in the mornings, ever. It has been suggested that quickly making your bed in the morning can benefit you in multiple ways. First, it gives a very quick sense of achievement. I’m not overly convinced by this as it is, after all just making the bed. Second, it helps you to have a clear mind. I can see this being the case more, as it is known that tidy surroundings help contribute to a clearer head.

Although I’m not really convinced that it will help, I am willing to give this a try. It should only take a couple of minutes each morning so I really have nothing to lose.

Freezing shower.

This is something that I have read about a lot, and have considered before. The health benefits of swimming in cold water or otherwise immersing one’s self in it are well known. From stimulating the brain and heart to making sure your pores are closed. This may require taking a hot shower at another time of the day in order to ensure proper cleanliness or alternatively just turning the water to cold for a couple of minutes at the end of my regular shower.

As I have read about this more than once, I am completely willing to give it a try.

Get moving.

Excercise first thing in the morning has been suggested to me a number of times. The biggest piece of advice I have been given on this though is to not overdo it too early. Doing 5 to 10 minutes of exercises such as press-ups or sit-ups when you wake up is more than enough to get you fired up in the morning. Save the gym or your run for later in the day.

Drink water.

This is something everyone should do as soon as they wake up, even if they don’t have problems with anxiety. After 7 or so hours of sleep, the body is getting very dehydrated. A glass or 2 of water as soon as you wake up is vital to starting your day off well, it is even more important than eating breakfast. I would advise keeping a glass or bottle of water by your bedside so that you can drink as soon as you wake.

Write something.

The power of getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper cannot be underestimated, it has proved to be invaluable to me as a way of combatting insomnia. It is also a great way of getting your brain ready for a busy day. Just spending 5 minutes getting some thoughts down, write about literally anything will help set you up for the day ahead.

These 5 things are the suggestions I am going to start using for my morning routine, depending on the success of this I may add more later.

Running can be more than just exercise.

I love to run. I have found it to be not only a good way to keep fit but also really helpful in the battle to control my mind. This last weekend I went for a run along one of my usual routes, the old railway line between my hometown of Calne and Chippenham. Usually, I would run the 10km there and then 10km back, this time, however, I walked back. When running I listen to music or podcasts, on this walk though, I decided to just listen to nature.

The effect a walk like this can have on your mental state is remarkable. I am often wary of going on long walks because I am prone to overthinking, I so often descend into a place of darkness because of it. This walk, however, was so calming that it has given me a whole new outlook. The peaceful nature of my chosen route only served to help this.