Sunday 23 October 2016

Live longer with Pat Henry: Sleep well to live well

Good qualit sleep is vital for a healthy body and balanced mind

Pat Henry

Published 01/12/2015 | 02:30

Sleep is vital for both your body and mind
Sleep is vital for both your body and mind

There is no better feeling than drifting into a really deep level of sleep.

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New research recommends six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night - and it's not beneficial to the rejuvenation of cells if you nap during the day or sleep less than six hours.

We need sleep to recharge our batteries, reduce stress, increase the flow of good hormones and regulate metabolism.

Sleep deprivation affects the nervous system, brain function, memory, emotion and regulation of appetite. Also, without good sleep, the immune system cannot fight off illness. Lack of sleep also affects the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas and increases the risk of developing obesity later on in life.

Recent research, by Elio Lugaressi and Rosella Medori at the University of Bologna, found that bad sleep patterns reduced brain cells and nerve cells. Patients were examined in both levels of sleep - good and bad sleep. The blood test results showed a drop in protective antibodies that protect us from illness.

The researchers also measured levels of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone in the blood, in the patients and found it had increased by 28pc. Meanwhile, the hormone leptin, which tells the brain that there's no need to overeat, was decreased by 18pc overall. Meanwhile, 23pc of the patients noticed an increase in their hunger levels, so you can see there is lots going on within the body during sleep.

Some of the results were quite startling, particularly in the area of memory, emotions and thoughts - negative thoughts were twice as likely to be to the fore when awakening from bad sleep pattern. The results suggest that when sleep deprived, you experience twice as many negative memories and a projected negative image of your new day ahead.

Some research links sleep deprivation to bad moods and depression.

Incredible research by Dr Lulvxie at the Rochesten Medical Centre, found that good sleep removes waste products from the brain. The space between cells in the brain increase during sleep and allows the brain fluid to flow freely to the spine.

All of this research really is encouraging us all to get good quality sleep. So what are the causes of bad sleep or insomnia?

* Changes to your bedtime, irregular shift work, etc

* Anxiety, stress

* Eating or drinking late at night

* Sugary drinks or alcohol

* Long-term insomnia can stem from illness such as asthma, prostate problems, ulcers, etc

* Caffeine-based drinks like coffee and tea, and even so-called health drinks

* Slimming pills, many of which contain herbs that will speed up the heart rate, hindering sleep.

So, how do we get a good sleep?

The first thing is to have complete darkness in the bedroom. Light affects the eyes when trying to get sleep. Next, remove all electrical goods: TVs, iPads, electrical alarms, mobile phones and anything with an electrical current running through it. Otherwise, it's like going to bed in a microwave. Remove these items and you will notice a difference very quickly.

Get to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning to help regulate your sleep. Don't go to bed too early and try to force yourself to sleep. This only makes things worse.

Avoid exercising too late in the evening as this will only increase your metabolism - allow at least three to four hours after exercise to let the body calm down before bed. Soaking in a hot bath with added lavender oil will also help.

Ki massage is very effective in regulating metabolism and this helps to avoid jet lag and will definitely encourage sleep.

Don't nap during the day, even if you feel tired. Many of our clients, even those in their 20s, are having sleep problems brought on by job stress. Many are working 14-hour days, getting home late and still sending emails. Switch off and allow your body to re-energise before bed. It's your battery that is charging - if you let it run down too low, you will simply burn out.

Poor sleep can be a sign of an underlying health problem. It's always wise to get checked out by your doctor. Melatonin may be recommended by your GP: melatonin levels drop with age, which is why older people suffer from insomnia more than younger people.

Exercise helps to balance hormone levels, so why not take up yoga, Tai-Chi, dancing, gym training, or try other relaxing practices such as reflexology or meditation.

Get organised with a definite action plan and within weeks, you'll see a great improvement in your sleep. Your body's cells will be rejuvenated and your mood lifted.

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