6 Ways To Get A Good Night Sleep

Sleep accounts for one-third of an average day and contributes to physical and mental wellbeing. We cannot do without sleep, but for many sleep often evades them. Lack of sleep leaves people feeling groggy, lacking in workplace creativity and productivity and can all too often lead to physical and mental illness. Here are some tips, including the science, to help you get a good night sleep.

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  1. Eat and drink well

The nutritious intake of food and drink is essential to maintain a healthy body and mind. Healthy body weight is attributed to better sleep quality. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals should help improve sleep quality. Vitamin B6 can help boost melatonin, a sleep hormone produced naturally by the body to aid in the sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium is also thought to improve sleep quality in sufferers of insomnia. Magnesium can be found in dietary sources such as nuts and seeds, and oily fish such as mackerel and salmon. These fish also contain essential fatty acids OMEGA-3s which are good for brain health!

2. Mindfulness

One of the common reasons for poor sleep quality is anxiety and stress. I am sure we have all experienced at some time the rolling of thoughts preventing sleep coming to us. One of the most important ways you can help alleviate the stress is to practice mindfulness, the act of being in the present.

You can practice mindfulness by laying comfortably, closing your eyes and then feeling the sensation of your body against the sheets. Feel the rise and fall of the chest with each breath. Feel the breath move into the body and then leave again. Allow stress and tension to leave the body with each exhalation. Listen to the sound of breathing. If your thoughts wonder off, just gently bring them back to the present.

I suffer from bad dreams, and I have used this technique many times to go back to sleep after waking up from a disturbed night – trust me it takes a bit of practice, but it works.

3. Create a nice environment

This may sound like common sense, but when you are dog-tired, it is very easy to just crawl into bed and hope that sleep arrives. You need to make sure that the environment is calm, the temperature is right and bed welcoming.

Create a really peaceful environment using soft and calm earthy colours such as blues, green and grey. These are all suggested to assist with sleep, but of course, you will pick what works for you and your bedroom.

Make sure the bedding textures are just right for you, I don’t like satins but love the coolness of cotton, for example. Replace that lumpy pillow if you are finding it is not comfortable, it may be affecting your sleep more than you realise. I frequently turn my pillows over to feel the coolness, this is a personal preference and helps me drift back off. Take a more objective look at your bedroom and decide what changes would create a better feel of the bedroom. You must make sure that you are comfortable we spend a lot of time in bed!

4. Physical activity

Not everyone will like this one, but it works! Physically active people usually sleep better and regular exercise helps those that suffer from insomnia. I am an advocate for health and fitness, but I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea.

You need to make sure that the activity you choose works for you. I am not suggesting you take up running if you are not a runner (well, maybe…!). Walking is a great way to raise the heart rate, practice mindfulness and destress. Best of all, it is free. The only caveat is when you exercise may affect your sleep. Exercising immediately before bed may be a stimulant for some, so experiment with when will work best for you, starting with a morning or early afternoon walk.

5. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is not for everyone and scientifically is controversial. There are studies that clearly show aromatherapy oils work to promote sleep and reduce anxiety. It is thought that the aromatherapy particles are able to reach the limbic region of our brain, producing a sedative and relaxing effect. Lavender is an oil that is frequently used to promote feels of relaxation, it is added to baths, used in massage oils, burnt or vaporised. Aromatherapy oils really are subjective because if you don’t like the smell, it will not help you to sleep so you will need to find the oil that is right for you.

6. Reduce Brain Stimulation

There is scientific evidence that suggests a bright screen before sleep will impact on sleep quality and this is particularly true of children. One reason for this may be due to the fact bright screens decrease the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. A reduction in melatonin would interrupt the effectiveness of the sleep-wake cycle. So, to improve sleep time, dim the lights of your screen, or better still listen to an audible mindfulness or meditation App.

Avoid stimulation by reducing coffee consumption during the day. Caffeine is a stimulant and can impair sleep quality. Coffee is my hot got-to drink of choice, so I usually stop drinking it early afternoon.

Those are my top six tips for improving sleep. Remember, regular quality sleep of between 7 to 9 hours is good for your health, your physical appearance and general wellbeing. You can implement changes one at a time or make radical changes – whatever will work for you! Feel free to leave comments about what works for you.

So, tell me, what changes are you going to make first?

Exercise and health

I thought today I would provide a brief overview of why we should exercise; there will always be differences based on an individual’s own circumstances so this is a guide, written and summarised based on the science.

Health benefits from exercise

It is well established and understood that exercise positively impacts on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. There are plenty of studies providing substantial evidence for regular physical exercise being able to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases in the older population. This evidence supports both infectious diseases, such as viral and bacterial and non-infectious, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, exercise can help a person maintain healthy body weight, reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, assist with sleep and promote bone strength.

Exercise and mental health

More recently, research has focused on the effect of exercise on mental health, with a wealth of evidence suggesting that exercise can contribute to mood enhancement. The mechanism is not entirely understood, although some suggest that the endorphins released during exercise have a calming and mood-lifting effect. Others report the release of monoamines, for example, the neurotransmitter serotonin, during exercise can act in the same way as anti-depression drugs. The reality could be a combination of effects.

Disease control

Exercise can assist in the control of diseases such as asthma, while not preventative, symptomatic control can be observed in some. From a subjective perspective, I can personally testify to this! Individuals suffering from cardiovascular disease, including post heart operation, can improve heart strength, under guidance from a qualified fitness trainer/medical professions. Also, exercise can assist with blood glucose management in diabetics, essential to controlling the symptoms of diabetes.

How much exercise is healthy?

There is a lot of scientific evidence to support the role of exercise in physical and mental wellbeing, still there is also the suggestion that too much or too intense exercise regimes may be harmful. The widely accepted consensus is that moderate exercise, which should be performed daily, is beneficial to health. Of course, it could be argued that moderate exercise is subjective and is also dependent on an individual’s level of fitness. As a general guide, a brisk walk is considered moderate exercise; however, in a more athletic individual, one would think that moderate exercise would be jogging. A good determiner would be that during exercise, a reasonable conversation should still be able to be held. There are some good guidelines provided by the NHS in terms of exercise that should be undertaken: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/.

Exercise should not be a chore

To make sure exercise is not a chore, be sure to choose an activity you enjoy. Maybe incorporate exercise with a new hobby such as bird watching or flower spotting while walking? I am fortunate to live close to some beautiful walks, if you do not have the same luxury, consider listening to a series of informative or fun podcasts, this may help pass the time. It is also the perfect opportunity to join a club and meet new people, look up local cycling, jogging, hiking or walking groups.

In summary

Exercise is good for our health so whatever form of exercise you enjoy – just do it! Each person will have different limitations, so if in doubt about what type of exercise should be carried out, or it will be the first time for exercise, take medical advice. Finally, always listen to your body, if you experience chest pain, or breathing difficulties stop exercising and call for help. Some degree of muscle discomfort is likely to occur when starting a new form of exercise; however, this should not persist, and any post-exercise aches should disappear in a few days – if persistent seek professional assistance.

“4 Things Everyone Should Know About the Coronavirus”

I write this post for Fitness Savvy, a company that I provide writing services to and I thought I would share it on my website also.

Covid-19 is the third known zoonotic coronavirus disease, and the previous two were SARS and MERS [1]. There is a flurry of research to understand the mechanisms of infection and transmission. Here is what we know:

Should I take anti-inflammatory medicine?

There have been some conflicting reports relating to the use of anti-inflammatory medicines in the treatment for the Covid-19. For those that are able to use paracetamol to alleviate symptoms, it is certainly wise to do so. The reason there is a question mark hanging over the use of drugs such as ibuprofen is due to their effect on the immune system. Anti-inflammatory medicines suppress the immune system, which may be necessary to moderate the immune response [2]. It may in some cases, have a negative impact on the body’s ability to respond appropriately to infection.

We know how to avoid Covid-19, but what happens if you get it?

There are currently no specified treatments to prevent Covid-19, although much work is being performed globally. Antibiotics, are prescribed for a bacterial infection and will not help with a viral infection and should not be sought. If symptoms transition into a bacterial infection, such as pneumonia antibiotics may be prescribed.

It is essential that dehydration is prevented, take on plenty of fluids to reduce the risk. Stay hydrated despite how unwell you may feel, small sips during regular intervals may help.

A fever is a natural response to an infection and is the body’s natural way of fighting [3], but can become uncontrolled. Medications such as paracetamol can be taken to reduce a fever and the symptoms associated with it.

Covid-19 affects the respiratory tract [1] and in more severe cases, oxygen may need to be administered to assist with the appropriate supply of oxygen to cells.

What is meant by those ‘at risk’?

At risk persons are usually those that are already immunocompromised, in addition to the very young and the elderly. Immunocompromised include patients having chemotherapy treatment for cancer, patients having undergone organ transplantation and/or patients with existing lung disease such as COPD or cystic fibrosis. Furthermore, the response to infections decreases with age and therefore, elderly persons, with underlying health conditions may be considered at risk [https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-new-measures-to-protect-people-at-highest-risk-from-coronavirus]. Conversely, young patients are still developing their immune systems and may be more susceptible to symptoms and pregnant women are also considered at risk.

Can you catch Covid-19 twice?

When exposed to an infection, such as a virus, the body will develop immunity against repeated infections. In principle, our immune cells will recognise components and fight repeat infections rapidly. This rapid response will mean that you may not be aware of the infection, as the body will fight it appropriately. It does not mean that you will not pick up the same infection twice, rather you will be better prepared for subsequent infections.

There are conflicting reports regarding Covid-19, and when the infection is under control, more detailed data will be available for analysis. What may appear problematic for one cohort of people, maybe less so for another? The guidelines issued by the government are based on the most available date and should be adhered to unless informed otherwise.

References

1.            Sun, P., et al., Understanding of COVID-19 based on current evidence. J Med Virol, 2020.

2.            Coutinho, A.E. and K.E. Chapman, The anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects of glucocorticoids, recent developments and mechanistic insights. Molecular and cellular endocrinology, 2011. 335(1): p. 2-13.

3.            Evans, S.S., E.A. Repasky, and D.T. Fisher, Fever and the thermal regulation of immunity: the immune system feels the heat. Nat Rev Immunol, 2015. 15(6): p. 335-49.

Scientific Writing

What is scientific writing

Scientific writing is an essential part of science with the documentation of ideas and demonstrable evidence of findings from qualitative and quantitative studies. How we gather, process and then communicate information is changing at the same time as technology is evolving, providing more platforms for scientific knowledge to be shared. This information needs to be delivered in a manner that is appropriate for its audience, thus, enabling its distribution and interpretation accordingly.

Styles of scientific writing

Scientific writing may be in a technical format, for example, the reporting of scientific observations and findings as a result of a study or notes in a lab book including methodology, research ideas and results. Conversely, scientific writing may include conveying information in a non-technical manner for a wider audience, for example, those that do not work in the science industry

Technical scientific writing

This is an example from a paper I published, written specifically for a scientific audience:

Non-technical scientific writing

Delivering complex scientific information to a non-scientific audience can be a difficult task and requires the breaking down of the information into bite-size and understandable chunks. Taking an extract from the example above, it has been re-written for a non-scientific audience:

Abstract:

‘Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative dementia, where an accumulation of aggregated fibrillar alpha-synuclein in neurons of limbic and forebrain regions of the brain leads to visual hallucination, cognitive impairment of a fluctuating nature and extrapyramidal motor disturbances. Beta-synuclein counteracts aggregation of alpha-synuclein in vitro and in animal models; however, it is not clear whether this effect occurs in human Lewy body dementia (LBD) diseases.’

Re-written:

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a common form of dementia caused by gradual loss of brain cells. The cells affected are in the cortex and regions involved in memory. DLB sees protein aggregates formed from the sticking together of proteins into clumps inside the cells; the loss of these brain cells leads to the changes that characterise dementia such as memory loss, behavioural and personality changes. Beta synuclein and alpha-synuclein are proteins in the brain; alpha-synuclein is found in the protein aggregates – called Lewy bodies and beta-synuclein is a similar protein that can prevent the aggregation of alpha-synuclein. It is not known whether this effect is seen in humans also.’

Essentially, the pitch of the writing will be appropriate to those that will be reading it; however, it is imperative, when conveying such information that the information is interpreted correctly before disseminating.

Tracey Evans Writing Services

To conclude, be aware of the audience and write the piece accordingly. Scientific writing can be fun and light-hearted, journalistic or formal. If you would like some help with scientific writing please contact me.