In this, the second of a two blogs exploring how you can best support your health over the festive period, I’m going to look at three lifestyle behaviours you can focus on this Christmas.
1. Focus on Sleep
Sleep is essential to health and wellbeing. Anyone who has had to care for a newborn baby can attest to the importance of sleep. There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture! Research over the years has revealed that sleep supports a wide range of processes and bodily functions. These include:
- Conservation of energy
- Cellular repair
- Emotional wellbeing
- Brain function
- Weight management
- Heart health
As adults we should all be aiming for 7-9 hours good quality sleep a night. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a whole host of problems. Indeed, insufficient sleep has been linked to a variety of chronic health conditions. Mental health can also suffer due to a lack of sleep. Anxiety, depression, low mood and poor memory function have are all associated with inadequate sleep.
Many of us are regularly not getting enough sleep and unfortunately, sleep can become harder to come by during times of stress and worry. A study carried out in May of this year, found that 63% of adults had experienced worse sleep since the start of lockdown on 23rd March.
Focussing on sleep is one of the best ways you can support your health over the festive period. And let’s face it we’ve got no late night parties to be at this year! Can you make sleep a priority this Christmas? Here are a few suggestions to help you get the sleep you need…
Tips for a better night’s sleep
- Allow yourself an 8 hour ‘sleep opportunity’ every night.
- Try and stick to regular bedtime and wake-times.
- Avoid screens for 2 hours before bed, or use blue light blocking glasses to minimise your exposure to stimulating blue light.
- Get outside in daylight every morning. Sunlight exposure helps set your circadian rhythm (as discussed in part 1 of this post).
- Ensure your room isn’t too hot. Research suggests this is one of the most important factors in getting a good night’s sleep. 18.3C is considered ideal.
- Leave at least 2 hours between eating and going to sleep. Allowing your body adequate time to fully digest your meal prior to going to bed, means you’re less likely to suffer from heartburn, reflux or uncomfortable bloating that can keep you awake at night.
I recently read the book The Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonical PhD with my wellness book group (great read by the way). The benefits of movement for physical and mental health are numerous, far too many to go in to here. However, I wanted to include a reminder here to Move because there can be a strong temptation to spend a LOT of time sitting or lounging at this time of year, when it’s cold and dark outside & Netflix is calling!
I know myself that when I’ve spent a long time being sedentary I feel stale and fed up, my back starts to niggle and I can’t get comfortable. Notice I used the word ‘move’ not exercise. It doesn’t have to be strenuous. Some gentle stretching, a walk or a kitchen disco all count! The key thing is to keep moving, your body will thank you for it!
3. Make time for you
This may sound silly, it’s Christmas so we’re all doing things we enjoy all the time, right? Well not necessarily.
How much time in the day can you honestly say you dedicate to doing something you really love? Something that brings you joy, that enables you to get lost in the moment, to experience ‘flow’?
It doesn’t have to be a complicated, or take a long time. Just 15 minutes a day can make all the difference. It could be taking the time to make your favourite hot drink and sitting quietly somewhere on your own to savour it. Or perhaps, it’s about connecting with others….a phone call to a friend. A luxurious warm bath, getting lost in a good book, playing music or creating something. Heading out for a walk or just sitting in nature and absorbing the sights and sounds. It doesn’t matter what it is or where you do it, as long as you do it, every day.