Karl Henry: Irish children are staying up too late and it's impacting their health
I hope the birds aren't waking you up too early at the moment. Isn't it incredible how loud they can be? I wake up around 4.30-4.45am and hang out with my dogs outside for a few minutes before I go to work. Standing on the grass in my bare feet and just getting ready for a busy day ahead and listening to the sounds of nature is amazing; it's up there with jumping into the sea first thing in the morning.
Anyway, enough about me and my morning habits! How has your sleep been over the last few weeks? With the simple changes I've suggested in food and exercise, I hope you are seeing a big difference in how you sleep and also in the quality of that sleep. Now I want to look at two further aspects that can have a major impact on your rest: one is your bed and the other is your schedule. Both are crucial to a good night's rest and over the past few years I have seen huge improvements in my sleep by making adjustments to both.
Now it's time to talk sleep patterns. In an ideal world you should go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time each day, especially at weekends. I know that probably isn't feasible at the weekend, as we all stay up later, but you should wake up at the same time regardless and get out of bed. This helps to establish a routine and a structure, which will lead you to a better sleep.
Ever notice how you struggle to sleep on Sunday evening? Many people put it down to the 'Monday morning fear', but actually it's more often a result of you having a big lie-in on Sunday morning, probably getting up three or four hours later than normal.
The really worrying angle here is with children and families. Children often stay up until way past midnight playing games and being online - it's something that we see so often, and something that is directly impacting their health.
Getting your family into a routine, leaving phones outside the bedroom and going to sleep by an agreed time on a regular basis is absolutely crucial to sleep, as well as mental and physical wellbeing.
Mattress: You know you're getting old when a mattress excites you. But trust me, the difference it can make is incredible. Firm or soft, pillow top or not? 5ft or 6ft? And remember the water bed… The reality here is that one size does not fit all - you need to try them out and see what you like. I stayed at a spa in Ireland a few years ago, where I slept incredibly well, and asked them what the mattress was. I went and bought the same one, a King Koil, and it's the best money I have ever spent. Put aside some time to browse and do the embarrassing lying-on-the-mattress thing. It may be worth spending that little bit extra to make sure you get the perfect one for you.
Pillow: Another key factor in your sleep is how comfortable your pillow is. Again, this is down to personal preference. I recently bought a Reflex pillow and have found a big difference in how I sleep. Soft pillows just don't give me the support I need. So try different ones, note how you feel and how you sleep afterwards and find what works best.
Duvet: The temperature of the bed is crucial, both in terms of how you sleep and your hydration. We sweat as we sleep and the hotter the bed the more we sweat. For couples, you can purchase duvets with two different tog values so each partner can choose what they would like. Investing in different duvets for summer and winter could be a wise move, so you can be snug when it's chilly and cool when it's warmer.