If you think sleep is a waste of time, think again! It's a vital ingredient for wellbeing. Mareike Bout shows how to sleep your way to good health... 

By personal trainer Mareike Bout

Hi and welcome to my ultimate guide to healthy living. If you've missed the first steps, here they are:

Step #1 was taking stock of your current health and fitness

Step #2 was addressing any issues that were uncovered during step #1.

Step #3 was moving more (by increasing your amount of exercise).

Step #4 was upgrading your diet.

Step #5 was managing stress

And here's step #6: Sleeping better! 

Does it really matter if you get enough sleep? Absolutely!

How well rested you are and how well you function during the day depends not just on the quantity of your sleep, but also the quality. If you have trouble sleeping, try these tips to help you drift off to the land of dreams: 

  • No screens one hour before bedtime. It's not just because the TV and computer are stimulating; it's also because we’re very sensitive to the light that cues our brain that we should be up and about.
  • No intense exercise close to bedtime. Vigorous activity will heat up your body's core temperature, which makes it harder to sleep.
  • Sleep in an environment that promotes melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that is linked to our ability to sleep. Sleep in a dark room, ensure your bedroom is free of as many electrical appliances as possible, and remove items that emit microwaves like mobile phones.
  • Set a regular sleep schedule. If you suffer with insomnia, although you can't make yourself fall asleep, you can make yourself get up at a certain time the next morning. And although you might be tired at first, if you don't take a nap you might start sleeping better during the following nights.
  • Don't ignore chronic sleep problems. Some people let sleep troubles linger for months or years. Don't be one of them! Get to a sleep specialist earlier rather than later, before bad habits set in.
  • Prioritise good sleep. I advise my clients that sleep is as important, if not more, as diet and exercise.

Remember, skimping on sleep affects our brain’s performance, our mood and ultimately our health.

Yes, life is busy and we all have responsibilities we need to front up to, and at times these things cause us to cut back on our sleep time. But when you do have the opportunity to sleep more, I encourage you to take it. Your body and mind will thank you!

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