Healthy Tip: Be a wise owl and get some kip

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Sleeping woman

Whilst too much sleep could indicate impaired mental and physical health, too little sleep can kick start the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin, driving up your heart rate and blood pressure. Other hormones that help control appetite seem to be disrupted too. A recent study took a closer look at the eating habits of adults aged 18-64 who were habitually sleeping less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours.  

It was found that the length of time you sleep directly affects what you eat. When sleep time was extended for these night owls they had a lower intake of free sugars- the type that is added by manufacturers and harmful to your health. It seems that having less sleep makes you more likely to reach for a sugar fix and this can directly affect your risk of heart disease.  
If you feel you need to swap the sweet tooth for some sweet dreams, follow our tips on how to take a heart healthy slumber and live a longer, healthier, happier life.

Ditch the midnight munchies
Free sugars that are either added to foods and drinks or eaten in its simplest form such as honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices should make up less than 5% of your daily energy needs.  For adults and children over the age of eleven this is around 30g per day and about the equivalent to an average chocolate bar, a 250ml smoothie or seven sugar cubes.  Remember to avoid over eating in the evening, but if you like a light supper before bed, Change4Life has plenty of 100 calorie snack ideas that are lower in sugar than your typical family snack cupboard.  

Milk it
The effects of pouring caffeine down your throat at 3 o’clock onwards to ‘get through the day’ will drive up blood pressure and play havoc with your sleep at night, stimulating your system for several hours after.  Don’t deprive yourself of vital fluids throughout the day, simply swap for a decaf cuppa, herbal varieties or a non-sugary soft drink. Sugars found naturally in milk don’t count as ‘free sugars’ and don’t contain artificial stimulants.  Go for skimmed milk to keep a lid on those saturated fats and get more of the blood pressure lowering potassium whilst your body repairs peacefully.

If you snooze you lose
‘Early birds’ are thought to burn more calories per day than night owls so keep that snooze button out of arms reach and keep active throughout the day for a healthy heart and a good kip at night.  It’s easy to clock up some zzzzs by adding 10 minutes of activity into your day whenever and wherever you can.  For instance you could have a 10 minute run in a morning to boost that energy button, take a few flights of stairs on your lunch break and spend 10 minutes on jobs in the garden before spring. It probably doesn’t make much sense to pound the gym too late at night but some gentle yoga before bed will help reduce stress levels, maintain a healthy blood pressure, prepare your mind and body for a restful sleep and may even reduce your risk of heart disease.

Create a screen-free zone
Drift off naturally by switching off televisions, computers and mobile phones, all of which require brain activity and reduce the production of melatonin, your body’s natural sleep enhancer.  Having a TV or computer in your bedroom has also been linked with significant increases in body fat, particularly in children.  Open a window, fluff up a good set of pillows, chill out to some soothing music or let your eye lids drop over some light reading until it’s time for lights out.

Use this time of change to re-assess your sleeping habits then snuggle down and dream-on for a brighter, happier and healthier start to your day and the years ahead.  You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to get the best quality sleep you can.