Sleeping Well?

How Can Feeling Tired Impact Your Health?

Welcome to the final article in our sleep trilogy. (Read What is Sleep All About? and How Can Feeling Tired Impact Your Health? for the full series). 

So far we have explored why we need to sleep and the implications if our sleep is disrupted or reduced in quality. This last chapter looks at some of the reasons you may not be sleeping well and offers some things to think about to develop sleep habits that encourage better quality sleep.

Poor sleep does have potentially serious health implications, so if you are persistently not sleeping well seeking professional help is advisable. See the NHS advice at the end of this article.

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How Can Feeling Tired Impact Your Health?

How Can Feeling Tired Impact Your Health?

There is nothing quite like naturally waking in the morning after a good night’s sleep, feeling fully refreshed and excited for the day to start. I love those mornings. 

Personally, a good night’s sleep is an 8 hour or more scenario. Any less has a definite impact on how I feel the next day; my mood, my ability to cope with the daily challenges, no matter how insignificant and my concentration. Most of us can relate to feeling tired and the tendency to feel less ‘with it’ but did you know that research shows people who consistently get better quality sleep live longer? 

So valuing your sleep and aiming for consistent, good quality sleep seems sensible for us all.

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What is Sleep all About?

What is Sleep all About?

Sleep. Something we all do and are all familiar with. Whether we are an 8 hour a night person or refreshed with less, we all need it. It is essential to our survival. 

Scientists think that pretty much every land dwelling mammal experiences sleep. Even dolphins sleep - although with half their brain at a time, which is a rather clever way of them staying alert enough to avoid predators and stay afloat to breathe. 

Scientific studies mean we now know a bit more about sleep and why it is important, although there is still a lot that we do not know. Why we need daily sleep is still not certain for example.

So what is sleep all about and why do we need it? Let’s start with a little bit of science...

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Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Have you ever looked on whilst someone tried something adventurous, scary, thrilling and you thought,

‘I wish I could do that… but…’ ? 

And then inserted some spurious excuse to talk yourself out of trying, like, ‘I’m too old/ young/ big/ small/ weak/ strong…’ ?

If the answer is yes more times than you would like you are likely living in the comfort of your Comfort Zone. On the face of it this might sound like a good place to be. However, there are also great benefits to stepping out of it… 

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What is the easiest thing I can do to eat more healthily?

What is the easiest thing I can do to eat more healthily?

Loo Read – Something you can read in the 3 minutes you are sitting on the loo…

Don’t forget, we have an entire online course devoted to helping you Eat Better for the long term. Click here to take a look. In the meantime, to get you started…

People often ask, ‘Should I be eating this food, or that food?’ or ‘What is the best thing I can do to eat more healthily?’   This is our opinion…

Every living organism on this planet can somehow get everything it needs and be fit and healthy enough to fight for its very survival, by eating a diet made up of whole, natural, unprocessed food.

  • Cheetahs can run faster than anything on the planet by eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods.
  • Gorillas grow immensely big and strong by eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods.
  • Wildebeest migrate huge distances by eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods.
  • Humans…have increasingly chronic medical challenges including obesity, higher blood pressure, heart disease, greater risk of diabetes and stroke (to name a few) by eating less whole, natural, unprocessed foods and lots more processed, manufactured junk.

A very simple lesson to learn from nature to eat more healthily is: 

“If it looks like it has come straight from a farm, it’s probably good for you. 

If it looks like it has come straight out of a factory, it’s probably not good for you”.

Eating less processed, manufactured junk food reduces the amount of excess, nutrient-low calories and salt, sugar, bad fats and additives you have.

Eating more whole, natural and unprocessed foods means you will be getting all the necessary energy and nutrients you need to fuel your body and thrive. For example eating more

  • Fruit and veg
  • Nuts and pulses
  • Meat and fish

A simple rule to follow to improve your healthy eating is to make sure the bulk of every meal/snack is made of whole, unprocessed, natural food that looks like it has come straight from a farm…and you won’t go far wrong.

Read moreWhat is the easiest thing I can do to eat more healthily?

Learning Barriers – Where do you get stuck?

Learning Barriers – Where do you get stuck?

Learning is all about personal exploration and growth. There are so many opportunities to learn and yet it is often easy to take this for granted, give up when we get stuck or not even try for fear of failing. Sometimes we just don’t recognise the chance to learn or we discount an experience as irrelevant. 

However, learning and its benefits are a fundamental part of wellbeing and therefore overcoming barriers and making the most of all learning opportunities makes sense. 

True learning is acquiring knowledge/awareness/skills and using or applying it. This second part, the ‘so what’ of learning, is what makes the difference to our growth and development, and, in my experience, this is often the hardest part.  (Why Greater Awareness is Essential for Your Wellbeing explains how you can raise awareness and shares a simple reflective model ‘What, So What, Now What’ to help you).

This article explores where you might get stuck in your learning so you can make the most of your opportunities to learn.

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The Stages of Learning

4 stages of learning

The Stages of Learning is a model we talked about in Why Awareness is Essential for Your Wellbeing. It is a simple and effective model/theory explaining the different stages of learning experienced when approaching any new skill or technique. It applies to all learning and growth, from trying something completely new, to changing a habit, such as a new healthy eating regime.

Let’s look at this in a bit more detail so you can add it to your toolkit to help you when facing a new challenge.

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Why Greater Awareness is Essential for Your Wellbeing

Ice berg with the tip showing representing conscious mind and the mass under the water line representing subconscious mind
Awareness require effort to become conscious thought

Looking after your physical and mental health and wellbeing requires constant attention. There are many factors that impact your wellbeing which fluctuates in response to your life circumstances and experiences.  In the Eat, Move, Be Happy Mental Health series, we explore the link between our physical and mental health more, introducing self-awareness as an important tool in helping you develop good health and wellbeing practise. See How Healthy are You? and How can we fight the stigma of mental illness?  In Eat Better we also talk about the essential role of regular debrief time in helping you develop healthier eating habits.

When something is worth valuing, it also requires effort and energy to build and maintain. For example, people accept that relationships, be they with a partner, friendships or colleagues, need attention to be at their best.  When learning something new or developing a skill, you expect to spend time to understand the theory and knowledge required and then to practise the steps in how to apply the knowledge or skill in the right way. You are prepared for this to take time, with some repetition, mistakes and for this not to go without a hitch or two along the way. No-one expects to be able to jump behind the wheel of a car for the first time and be an expert driver.

Maintaining optimum health and wellbeing is no different. It doesn’t happen by magic and requires energy and effort to understand your personal complexities and nuances that help you be the best you can be. You know yourself better than other people do.

This module looks at ways you can help yourself develop greater awareness of your health and wellbeing and channel your energy and effort more effectively.

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Is the Water Getting Too Hot to Jump Out?

cartoon frog leaping away from a pot of boiling water

I came across a story several years ago that I refer to frequently, including once in an interview. The boiling frog phenomenon describes how, if a frog is placed in a pot of boiling water it will immediately jump out, the water is too hot. However if a frog is placed in a pot of cool water and a low heat applied, the immediate surrounding is comfortable so the frog stays in the water.  Eventually the water heats up and gets too hot for the frog to jump out.  

I know that is a pretty grim analogy, however how often have you found yourself in a situation where you suddenly feel totally overwhelmed, helpless and maybe even hopeless? When you find yourself in this place, not only do you not know what to do for the best, but often you do not have the energy to do it. 

It is likely that your feeling of being overwhelmed increased gradually, much like the temperature of the water for the frog.  By the time you recognised the potential impact of the situation on your stress levels, it was too late to avoid that feeling of lack of control and hopelessness. Not a good place to be and a sign of chronic stress, or a long-lasting exposure to stressful triggers. 

Not all stress is bad for us. Some stress can be motivational, for example physical training is a way of putting your body under acute stress to challenge it to improve in either fitness or strength. Acute stress responses are also the body’s way for humans and mammals to prepare for fight or flight, an evolutionary survival trait. 

The trick is to be able to pay attention to the temperature of the water isn’t it? At Eat, Move, Be Happy we also think it is about paying attention to what is causing the water to heat up in the first place and having ways of cooling the water down, or of jumping out, before it gets too hot to handle.   

This article looks at ways you can improve awareness of your stress levels and what triggers an increase in stress for you. It also explores why some people appear to be able to cope better than others with more stress and ways you can be more effective at maintaining more acceptable stress levels more of the time. 

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The Myth about Willpower

What is Willpower?

hand reaching for a fairy cake

At Eat, Move, Be Happy we regularly have conversations with people about the habits they want to change and how, for all sorts of reasons, they think they can’t. Typically these habits are about healthy eating and exercise. And what we hear are comments like:

‘I can’t resist the cake/chocolate/crisps, I haven’t got the willpower.’

‘I am too tired to exercise today. I will try harder tomorrow.’

‘I haven’t got the willpower to resist all the things that are bad for me, so what is the point in trying?’

They think about willpower as something you either have or you don’t.  And people who have it are better in some way, than those who don’t. Using this logic, people who can resist a slice of cake or get out of bed half an hour earlier to run in the morning are somehow seen as being better than people who eat cake or stay in bed and snooze. 

And that is ridiculous, right?  That seems to seperate us out into “have” and “have nots”, or “elite” and “lower” classes and by implication, we are destined to stagnate with no potential to improve or choose not to eat the cake. 

So I started wondering about this mystical willpower that seems powerful enough to influence people’s belief in their ability to make decisions and shift habits to more healthy eating and to exercise more consistently. 

I thought answering the question, what is willpower? was a simple enough place to start an exploration of willpower. Why do some people seem, on the face of it, to have more willpower to resist temptation and stick to their intentions than others? I wondered if this was actually true and, if so, where people who have more willpower get their supply?

However, it turns out the answer to the question ‘what is willpower?’ is not so simple. Understanding this is tricky. There are many variations in the definition of willpower and how people think about it. Even dictionary definitions vary and this in itself creates confusion. 

Rather than beating ourselves up because we ate the cake, is there a different way? And what part does willpower play?

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