Has being awake in the early hours become your nightmare? Do you wake up wondering if you’ll ever get a ‘decent night’s sleep’ again?
What if it’s not quite what you think? Maybe the answer lays in understanding how people used to sleep and how our modern beliefs about sleep may be one of the major sources of our problem.
Many of us feel cheated or even guilty when we have sleepless nights and for good reason, because we’re going to feel tired and drained, at some point, and we simply won’t be able to function well.
So waking up in the early hours and suddenly believing we’re sleep deprived becomes the ‘alert signal’ which causes us stress and to become concerned about our physical health and more importantly, our mental health.
Not having ‘enough’ sleep leads us to worry about all the things that will go wrong if we continue to lack ‘a proper night’s rest.’
But there is strong evidence that challenges our modern belief that sleep should be in one prolonged experience.
Historical journals and other literature show that sleeping and napping during the day was common and that before the industrial age, which introduced time measured activity of specific workforces, people used to have 2 sleeps during the night.
The first sleep was after the day’s work activities and, upon waking, the second sleep was after interactions, sharing refreshment, conversation and this was also the most favoured time for procreation.
Interestingly, when babies and young children are left to sleep, according to their own needs and without interference, they form similar patterns of rest.
It may be that constant access to electricity and light has had a detrimental effect on our natural sleep cycle and that our modern beliefs about sleep are a contributing factor for our anxiety about sleeplessness.
Are you getting stressed that the weight is coming off too slowly or maybe it isn’t coming off at all? Or even worse, is the weight you lost, now starting to return?
All is not lost! Here’s a relaxing way to focus on your goal. You can literally, trick your brain, body and emotions into working with you, instead of against you!
First thing, in the morning is often ‘the beginning of the end’, when you decide whether to return to your habitual eating routine or whether to choose your healthy eating plan.
You may be craving unhealthy food and your hope of a morning exercise ritual could be fading fast. Emotionally, you just may feel unmotivated and realistically, you may not have time. However, there are small changes you make to de-stress yourself and focus on your goal.
When you’re ready to start breakfast and enjoy a ‘wake me up’ cuppa; you can do some easy things that’ll increase your motivation - in the time it takes to boil the kettle.
All you need to do is stand still. Breathe in deeply. Then, repeat these short, calming movements.
Ease your body into action by starting with your head; move it up and down 8 times, turn to the left 8 times and then to the right for another 8.
Counting again, pull your shoulders up towards your ears and let them drop again.
Still counting through each movement, continue with slow, easy stretches all the way down your body to your feet.
These gentle movements are peacefully energising and support your weight loss goals because your brain will release ‘happy hormones’ (serotonin and beta-endorphins).
These keep your mood mellow and raise your optimism. Very importantly, they’re proven to reduce sugar cravings.
Feeling less anxious, your enhanced mood will empower you to make healthier decisions about further physical exercise and you’ll feel ready for your ‘healthy diet breakfast’ and a happy fruit-filled day!
You know that chocolate makes you feel good and makes you happy but do you know why?
It’s because the chemical makeup of cocoa naturally constitutes many healthy antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to boost your physical and mental wellbeing, leading to these benefits:
1. The smell is calming
Our brains are generally influenced by beta waves the normal waking frequency. However, the aroma of chocolate is found to slow down our brain to alpha waves, resulting in us feeling pleasantly calm, yet still wide awake and observant.
2. Reduces stress.
Stress may be caused by the pituitary gland which is a tiny organ at the base of the brain, not working properly. Chocolate provides magnesium, which lowers the manufacture of cortisol the ‘stress hormone’ yet stimulates the creation of serotonin the ‘happiness hormone’. Chocolate also contains valeric acid, a calming agent beneficial in treating delicate nerves, while the magnesium helps muscles to loosen up. The sugar in chocolate has also been shown to have a relaxing even pain-relieving effect due to sweet tastes triggering the narcotic like matter in our brains.
3. Makes you happy
We find eating chocolate pleasurable sensual, even so endorphins are released which have a similar effect to morphine. Chocolate causes blood vessels to dilate which creates warm, fuzzy feelings, similar to those we get when attracted to somebody.
4. Boosts brain function and alertness
With a reasonably low glycaemic index (GI),Chocolate gives long lasting energy because it doesn't raise blood sugar too quickly.
Thanks to Thiamine, Vitamin B1, which helps to produce energy; magnesium, the mineral essential for brain health; procyanidin, a natural preventative of oxidation and inflammation of the brain; theobromine; caffeine-like substance that makes us more alert without the jitters, and chromium (helps control blood sugar as it is involved in making glucose available in the body. Eating chocolate can give you a real boost mid-afternoon when energy levels traditionally drop. It aids concentration and alertness, with tests proving increased memory function in older people drinking two cups of cocoa a day.
5. Relieves PMS
It’s the magnesium at work again it can help alleviate cramps and increase energy, which makes exercising more appetising. And, in turn, exercising alleviates symptoms; it’s the opposite of a vicious circle!
6. Moisturises and hydrates the skin
There’s a very good reason so many beauty and health products use cocoa butter it melts at body temperature and is therefore easily absorbed into the skin. The flavonols in dark chocolate protect the skin against sun damage and increases natural collagen, as well as help prevent blemishes. It can also minimise wrinkles. A high factor sun tan lotion is still recommended. A study with spot prone students found that plying them with lots of chocolate did nothing to exacerbate their acne problems and concluded that choco;ate does not cause spots.
7. Slows down the signs of aging
Dementia and arthritis can be combatted with the help of chocolate, thanks to antioxidants epicatechin and polyphenols. Epicatechin has proven to be effective in protecting the brain from the build up of amyloid placques, the proteins that can cause dementia. Polyphenols rid the body of free radicals, a major cause of age related arthritis, reducing the suffering induced by inflamed joints. Again, this is more a benefit of dark chocolate 85% cocoa and above than milk chocolate. With the flavonols acting as an anti inflammatory agent, it helps to treat brain injuries like concussion, as well as stroke, MS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, autism and ADHD.
8. Lowers blood pressure
The flavonols in cocoa beans help to produce nitric oxide, which widens and dilates the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. This led researchers to declare it reasonable to include a hot cocoa drink as part of a prudent diet.
9. Stops tooth decay
Wait, what? But yes, French dentists actually recommend a piece of chocolate after meals the chemical theobromine hardens tooth enamel more effectively than fluoride. It’s pretty bitter though, so don’t hold your breath for chocolate toothpaste anytime soon! Cocoa also contains chemicals that combat oral bacteria.
10. Helps healthy hair
Chocolate can help thicken hair by promoting blood circulation in the scalp, and its anti-inflammatory properties can reduce the risk of scalp infections and hair loss. Having a shiny head of hair may not be high on your list of ‘health’ benefits but how much better do you feel when you think you’re looking your best? It’s a knock-on effect which can kick-start those naturally occurring chemicals for that ‘feel good’ factor! Whilst much is attributed to dark chocolate which contains over 70% cocoa solids, further studies appear to show that milk chocolate is also beneficial, particularly in physical wellbeing relating to heart health, strokes and diabetes.