Health Care

The importance of sleep

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Life is extremely busy these days. Most of us are working full time, either in a job or parenting children, or both!

The daily tasks and endless ‘to do lists’ can make it seem as if all our days merge together and the short, weekend breaks in between, seem, well, short. We are like fish coming up for air. We plough through the work and ‘get on with it’ – every single day. The work gets done, the kids get sorted, the housework gets done, the food gets prepared and everyone goes to bed, to sleep. Do you go to sleep?

Speaking for myself, I know that when my head hits the pillow, I don’t fall asleep. I THINK and I WORRY! I think of all the things I haven’t done, or need to do. Basically, I do everything but sleep. In my field of work, missing out on sleep is part of the job – and when there is time to sleep, I’m not that good at it! Research suggests that I am not alone. It is thought that two out of three women spend several nights of their week (at least) struggling to get to sleep, stay asleep, or sleep at all.

For some of us, sleep deprivation is unavoidable – it comes with the territory; whether your job requires you to work long hours or maybe you have young children who don’t sleep through the night. So let’s talk about how to deal with it. It is well documented that chronic sleep deprivation puts you at higher risk of developing various health issues: heart disease, mental illness and type 2 diabetes, to name a few. The causes of which are multifactorial, but include increased inflammation levels in the body, higher blood pressure, an imbalance of stress hormones, and impaired glucose tolerance.

In the times that we just cannot avoid sleep deprivation, we need to look at what we are eating. All three of the above health problems are linked to obesity, and we know that when we are tired, we crave food and drinks that give us an immediate or ‘quick hit’ of energy: foods like bread, pasta, cakes and biscuits and caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and energy drinks. All of which, due to their fast energy-releasing abilities, spike our blood sugar or energy levels, and give us a quick, short-lived boost of energy, but result in an even worse dip or ‘crash’, and so the cycle continues.

I know that when you are tired, or even beyond tired (zombie tired!), the thought, let alone the action, of preparing a nourishing and sustaining meal is almost impossible. For me, preparation is the key. Half an hour in the kitchen is all it takes to prepare something that can be stored in the fridge, ready for you to grab when you are tired and hungry. I’m talking about things like: individual servings of natural yoghurt, topped with oats and some frozen berries; muffin-sized quiches; sliced vegetables with hummus; bliss balls; and big bottles of chilled water – the list could go on. All are healthy, nourishing and low glycaemic index, meaning they provide slow-releasing, sustained energy for when you need it the most.

One of my number one ‘grab’ snacks are bliss balls. They are like perfect little bite-size meals – full of healthy ingredients that will sustain you, and satisfy your cravings!

Raspberry fudge brownie balls

In a high-speed food processor, process together:

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • 3 tbsp cacao
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted medjool dates (you could use dried dates, but soak them in boiling water first)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

Roll into balls and store in the fridge.

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