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Banish seasonal sniffles and winter blues

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We spend a third of our lives sleeping. Even the great minds of this world have commented on how important sleep is. Mohandas Gandhi said that man should forget his anger before he lies down to sleep and the Dalai Lama spoke of sleep as the best meditation.


So why do people have too little sleep (insomnia)? The commonest reason for this is anxiety, stress and depression. As a result this can cause tiredness, affect your memory and make you feel fatigued.


The easiest option is sleeping pills, but actually an insomniac is more likely to succeed long term by managing his or her insomnia and treating the triggers, such as stress. This would come in the form of psychological therapies such as stress relaxation and changing sleep perceptions by behavioural techniques, and not tossing and turning or clock-watching as these activities will mentally associate the bedroom as a place of frustration and anger. Have you thought about de-stressing those muscles in your body by progressive muscular relaxation? Lie on the floor and tense your muscles slowly, both your arms and legs and body, and then slowly relax them, further and further. Try doing this every evening for 10 minutes.


So what tips are there for a good nights sleep? Think routine, routine and routine. Go to bed at a decent time and get up at a decent time, regularly. Avoid too much caffeine late in the evening. Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Remember to keep fit and take part in regular exercise. If stressed, wind down before bedtime. However, if your sleep remains a problem, seek advice from a local sleep clinic.


Dr Dev Banerjee is consultant sleep physician at Spire South Bank Worcester Hospital. Tel 01905 362252 www.thesleepclinic.org.uk



Banish seasonal sniffles and winter blues
At this time many of us try cutting back on calories and alcohol after the Christmas festivities, but few of us consider boosting levels of specific nutrients like Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps us to absorb and use calcium, and recent research also suggests low levels may contribute to increased risks of health conditions including hypertension, type I diabetes, seasonal affective disorder and certain cancers. It might also reduce immunity causing us to pick up winter coughs and colds.


Most vitamin D is made through sun exposure and as the UK is in the northern hemisphere we only make Vitamin D in spring and summer. Most of us will make enough to build up stores in our blood, but those who have health problems or dont get much sun might need to think about dietary sources over winter months.


For new year nutritional health and energy throughout the day try eating some protein with each meal. Natural yoghurt and walnuts can be added to breakfast cereals. Cottage cheese, humus or avocado make tasty lunch snacks. Evening meals should also include protein such as poultry, lean meat, fish or beans. Eating proteins throughout the day should also help manage your appetite, making you to feel less hungry. Another tip to help curb sweet cravings is to reduce your intake of high fructose cornstarch or syrup, as new research links this to problems regulating appetite, obesity and gout.


If you have any nutritional concerns, the University of Worcester runs a Wellbeing Clinic at the McClelland Centre. Tel: 01905 542205 or email j.bold@worc.ac.uk


Jane Richardson and Justine Bold are senior lecturers in the Institute of Health and Society at Worcester University. Justine is also course leader for the MSc in nutritional therapy.

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