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Your sleep cycle. Your mood. Related?

Sleep is one of the most important factors for health and wellbeing. It helps your body recharge each day. When you don’t get enough, it can significantly impact your mood, energy, concentration, memory, appetite, metabolism and hormones. Sleep matters!

I often talk about sleep in clinic and you may have noticed that I often reference it as a therapeutic tool when discussing a number of different health conditions on this blog. I’ve also written about the importance of sleep hygiene for cultivating better sleep.

So we’ve established that getting sleep is important, but what about when you sleep?

Does your sleep cycle affect your mood and behaviour?

An interesting study was published this month, looking at the behavioural differences between people who go to sleep early and those who stay up late. Sleep chronotypes describe your preference for rising early or staying up late – the time during which your body functions best. Early risers are morning sleep chronotypes and stay-up-late folk are evening sleep chronotypes.

What the researchers found was that those individuals who identified as evening sleep chronotypes were more likely to exhibit personality and behavioural traits associated with the ‘Dark Triad’ (i.e. narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism).

My favourite quote in this paper, which is also the final line, is an absolute humdinger: “In short, those high on the Dark Triad traits like many other predators (e.g., lions, African hunting dogs, scorpions), are creatures of the night.” Creatures of the night! Take THAT night owls! Or should I say… night scorpions?

All jokes aside, this does highlight an interesting correlation between those who go to bed late and a number of unhealthy physical and emotional outcomes. However, is that what makes you stay up late (you creature of the night!) or are the negative health outcomes a result of irregular sleep patterns and an imbalanced circadian rhythm? I’d like to think the latter. Which means, by cultivating healthier habits and resetting your sleep clock (even marginally), you will be more in sync with the world around you and less likely to display those negative attributes you’ve been otherwise assigned.

Are you an early bird? A night owl? Do you reckon it impacts your health?

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REFERENCE: Jonason P et al 2013. Pers Individ Dif. 55(5): 538-541

Rest: an important concept for health

If you’re feeling run down, your throat’s hurting, head feeling fuzzy, mood a bit flat… this would be a good time to rest. For these are all signs that your health isn’t at its best and could do with some nurturing.

Rest is a crucial factor in staying healthy – it allows your body the time to restore, replenish and recuperate. I’m not just talking about sleep here either – although, yes, that is definitely important. I’m talking about proper, bona fide, time out i.e. less or no work, no heavy exercise, no socialising, no crazy late nights and (hooplah!) no chores.

Many of us have been guilty of pushing through the start of an infection, or even full-blown illness, often finding that symptoms hang around much longer than we’d like and invariably recur over a period of weeks.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Usually because life feels too busy to take time off that hasn’t been scheduled. People, don’t get caught up in this! Your health, for better or worse, won’t adhere to a strictly controlled itinerary.

No matter how much vitamin C or cold & flu medication you slam down, your immune system won’t work as well if you don’t take some pressure off the rest of your body. And it doesn’t have to be drastic either, sometimes all you need is a day or two at half-speed to feel whole again…  although sometimes it’s nice to take a little longer.

Ester Resting on Arm – Laura Smith

Warm feet = happy sleep

It is getting COLD here in Brisbane.. and indeed across much of the Southern Hemisphere. While most places are – or should be – equipped for the cold snap, here in Sunny Queensland we seem to be possessed of houses designed to repel heat and encourage air flow. This is an excellent quality throughout the long, hot summer – but a lamentable one during the cooler months.

Warming up your home will obviously make life more comfortable, as will piling on fluffy, fleecy layers of clothing. However, so many (too many!) people I speak to still insist on keeping their hands and feet bare – even when the temperature’s down to single digits. I mean, really.

For most of us, our circulation is not good enough to pump warm blood to our extremities if they’re not insulated and it’s freezing cold. Ultimately, if you’re comfortable hobbling around with ice-blocks on the ends of your legs, that’s fine. However, I would recommend against it. Particularly towards the end of the evening when you’re starting to power down and prepare for bed.

Warm feet and hands not only feel cosy, but have also been shown to improve the quality of sleep. The act of warming increases blood flow to these extremities, which is an indicator of the body’s readiness to sleep.

While partners / lovers / bedfellows may snort at you slipping into woolly socks before slipping under the covers, pay them no heed! They’ll appreciate your warmth and cosiness in the end.

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