So far, #5stepping shouldn’t have proved to onerous – drink more water, walk a little more; drink less caffeine and alcohol, sit a little less … but then that’s the whole point of #5stepping: it isn’t meant to be hard, it’s all about those little incremental changes that stack up to make a big difference.
The third step you can take to make your life healthier is even easier … it involves doing absolutely nothing, and doing it for at least seven-and-a-half hours a day!
That’s the minimum amount of sleep the average person needs to stay healthy yet more than half of us aren’t getting more than around six hours per night – and not enough zeds doesn’t just make you feel a bit slower, it could kill you!
The amount of sleep we need changes through life: and it’s not just adults that are getting less than they need. Children need around 11-12 hours sleep at pre-school age and teenagers 9-10 hours per night but the numbers getting enough rest is falling year on year.
The most obvious immediate effects of a late night are feeling slower and lacking concentration, which isn’t a good think if your first act of the day after downing a shot of restorative caffeine is to jump behind the wheel of a car. A quarter of all road traffic accidents are attributed to lack of adequate sleep, not surprising when you consider that people who have been awake for 19 hours score worse on functional tests that those over the legal limit for alcohol!
There are other ways lack of sleep can cut short your life: people who get less than six-and-a half hours sleep a night are 50% more likely to be overweight than those getting the full eight hours. There is also a much higher chance of developing type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease; delayed healing from illness or injury and clinical depression.
Fortunately, if you’re a #5stepper, you’ll already have taken two giant strides towards improving both the quality and quantity of your sleep. Alcohol reduces the quality of sleep and caffeine the quantity – water doesn’t (though two pints of H20 immediately before retiring is likely to cause a 3am dash to the loo). Physical exercise, such as walking, also helps counter insomnia. And if you’ve noticed that more exercise and fewer empty calories is starting to push your weight in the right direction, then bear in mind that a healthy body-mass index massively reduces the risk of sleep apnoea, a potentially lethal condition that can leave sufferers exhausted even after a full night’s sleep.
So, if you want to improve your vitality, boost your concentration, improve your health and even pep-up your sex drive, here are my top tips.
• Routine is everything.
It doesn’t matter if you’re nine months or ninety years, go to bed and get up at the same time every day… including weekends! You’ll feel a lot better and get much more done.
• If you can’t get the full eight hours at night, have a siesta
An hour’s sleep in the afternoon every day means you need less at night: it works a treat in Southern Europe and the evidence shows it’s actually better for you!
Televisions, smart pones, tablets and PCs should stay downstairs and be switched off a least 45 minutes before you want to go to sleep. Remember books? 30 minutes reading (of something not too harrowing).
• Be cool!
A bedroom needs to be ventilated, to avoid build-up of carbon dioxide and should be around 17-19ºC.
• Do not disturb.
You need dark (blackout curtains) and quiet (secondary glazing or ear plugs) to sleep well.
Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.