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It’s hard to get enough sleep with increasing working hours, pressures to maintain a social life, electronic devices and the anxieties and stresses of the day racing through our heads. The NHS says that one in 3 of us suffers from poor sleep, and the cost of all those sleepless nights is more than just bad moods and a lack of focus as “regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy”.

It’s common knowledge that most of us need around 8 hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly, but what we often don’t take into consideration is that some of us need more and some less, dependent on factors such as age, activity levels and more. There are many benefits to getting a good night sleep, and the NHS explains that it can boost our immunity, our well being, can increase our sex drive and also improve our fertility.

Sleeping well can also help to keep you slim, as studies have shown that “people who sleep less than 7 hours a day tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of becoming obese than those who get 7 hours of slumber. It’s believed to be because sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone)”.

To be controversial, in an article published in the New Scientist, Jerome Siegel who studies sleep at the University of California, Los Angeles, argued that the 8 hour rule has no basis in our evolutionary past – his study of tribal cultures with no access to electricity found that they get just 6 or 7 hours.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, these are the sleep ranges on average needed at different ages:

• Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range 14-17 hours each day
• Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range 12-15 hours
• Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range 11-14 hours
• Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range 10-13 hours
• School age children (6-13): Sleep range 9-11 hours
• Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range 8-10 hours
• Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range 7-9 hours
• Adults (26-64): Sleep range 7-9 hours
• Older adults (65+): Sleep range 7-8 hours

Though research cannot pinpoint an exact amount of sleep need by people at different ages, it acts as a recommendation. However, the National Sleep Foundation adds that it’s important to pay attention to your own individual needs by assessing how you feel on different amounts of sleep.

Ask yourselves these questions to determine whether you need more or less sleep:

• Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear?
• Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease?
• Are you experiencing sleep problems? Such as narcolepsy or insomnia.
• Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
• Do you feel sleepy when driving?

If you are unsure, it’s best to seek medical help, but as a general rule the NHS says that if you don’t get enough sleep, there’s only one way to compensate…by getting more sleep.

They say that “if you’ve had months of restricted sleep, you’ll have built up a significant sleep debt, so expect recovery to take several weeks. Starting on a weekend, try to add on an extra hour or 2 of sleep a night. The way to do this is to go to bed when you’re tired, and allow your body to wake you in the morning (no alarm clocks allowed!).

“Expect to sleep for upwards of 10 hours a night at first. After a while, the amount of time you sleep will gradually decrease to a normal level. Don’t rely on caffeine or energy drinks as a short-term pick-me-up. They may boost your energy and concentration temporarily, but can disrupt your sleep patterns even further in the long term.”

For a good night’s sleep try to stick to sleeping at regular times and make sure you “wind down” by turning off electronics before bed or by having a bath. Lastly, the NHS adds that we should keep the bedroom “just for sleep and sex (or masturbation). Unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy. This has evolved in humans over thousands of years”.

It’s 2020, which means both a new year and a new decade have arrived. It’s a fresh start and a chance to reinvent yourself if you so wish, finally achieve the goals you have been putting off and become the best version of yourself.

Although some people believe that resolutions are nonsense – and they could have a point considering that a study conducted by researchers at the University of Scranton found that 23% of people quit their resolution after just one week and only 19% of individuals are actually able to stick to their goals long term – there are some who benefit from writing down exactly what they want to achieve and thinking it into reality.

This could sound a bit “The Secret” to sceptics, but an article published by Dr Michael Moore on the Daily Mail says that New Year’s resolutions can be great for our health. He explained: “Researchers in the US recruited 159 people who had made a resolution to lose weight, quit smoking or exercise more, and 123 who had similar goals but hadn’t yet made a firm resolution to change. Six months later they checked up on them. Perhaps surprisingly, almost half of the firm resolvers had been successful in achieving at least part of their goal, compared with just four per cent of the non-resolvers.

“Another myth is that we have to be ‘realistic’, and make small, manageable changes in order to stick to them. Again, the science doesn’t back this up, at least when it comes to losing weight – again the No 1 resolution this year. A few years back, University of Minnesota researchers followed 1,800 men and women on a weight-loss programme. Those with the most ambitious targets were those who achieved the greatest weight loss after two years.”

Whether your goal is to lose weight, run more or just eat in a better way for optimal brain health, it looks like setting ambitious resolutions and giving them a good old go this year could be the key to an improved mind and body.

Here are some healthy resolutions to consider for becoming a better you:

1. Improve your diet

Maybe you’d like to lose weight, or just get more veggies into your diet. Now spells the perfect time to get started, so forget all those diets you have failed (or rather that failed you) in the past decade and finally get to where you want to be.

Start by writing a food diary and checking in with the unhealthy parts of your diet you would like to change. Make gradual changes, like adding in more fruit and veg or cutting out heavily processed food. You’re more likely to stick to it if you change your eating little by little rather than all in one go.

2. Get a sexual health check up

When was the last time you visited your doctor and asked for a sexual health check up? Many of us neglect this aspect as our health as we find it embarrassing or in some way shameful, but you can walk into a gum clinic anywhere and get treatment (or hopefully the all clear) and we should take advantage of this luxury in the UK.

It’s worth doing as chlamydia is the most common STI in the UK and is easily passed on during unprotected sex. It’s also symptomless, so lots of people aren’t aware they can have it. According to The Sun, in 2013 more than 200,000 Brits tested positive for the disease – and nearly 70 per cent of them were under 25.

Chlamydia can affect your fertility, but thankfully is easily treatable.

3. Eat better for your brain

Did you know that blueberries are good for your brain? Or that the way we eat could decrease our risk of getting Alzheimer’s?

Heavily processed oils and other foods can mean that our brains are not able to function properly, which can cause real issues as we grow older. Read Genius Foods by Max Lugavere for more on this.

4. Take up a sport

If you hate the idea of the gym, try out a sport and see if you like it in 2020. If you don’t, try another. You’re more likely to stick to exercising regularly if you actually enjoy it.

5. Floss

No, not the dance.

Flossing your teeth prevents gum disease by getting rid of pieces of food and plaque from between your teeth. Get into the habit of doing this once a day.

6. Wear suncream

Make a habit of wearing suncream everyday. Not only does it keep you looking young, but sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer. You can burn in the UK too, even when it’s cloudy.