Tag: sleep

Professor Green Shares The One Sleep Habit That Helps His Anxiety

In ‘What Works For Me’ – a series of articles considering how we can find balance in our lives – we talk to people about their self-care strategies. 

Professor Green sleeps with his bedroom curtains wide open, but it’s not because fame has turned him into an exhibitionist. The rapper and documentary-maker says being woken up by the sun each morning helps reduce his anxiety – forcing him out of bed and into a routine. 

“If I’m in an anxious place in the morning and I’ve got a bit of a knot in my stomach, rather than feeding it, I nourish myself instead – I get out of bed and walk the dogs,” he tells HuffPost. “I just find that getting up and out and getting my day started, irrespective of what my sleep was like, makes me feel better.”

Starting his day earlier – and switching his phone off at 9pm to avoid distractions – also helps him “chip away” at his to-do list, which he used to find overwhelming. 

“The longer you leave things the more they manifest, the more you have to do and the more difficult it seems to take that first step,” he says. “But I think the first step is the most important thing when it comes to mental health.”

The 35-year-old, whose real name is Stephen Manderson, has long been open about the mental health problems he’s had since childhood. Alongside anxiety, he’s experienced bouts of depression and continues to be affected by OCD

“I used to count a lot when I was a kid, I’d twitch my leg muscle for every word that someone spoke,” he recalls. “[Now] my OCD often presents itself as hypochondria if everything starts to feel like it’s getting out of control, but I’ve got much better at recognising it.”

He describes his mental health as being in “a really good place” at the moment, and tells me he stopped taking the antidepressants he was prescribed last year.

“In the time when I was on them it did help break a negative thought cycle,” he says, adding that it changed some of his own preconceptions about medication. “But there’s a stigma that comes with it. I didn’t want it to define me, like ‘oh he’s on antidepressants’ and I’m quite stubborn. I like to try to fix things other ways if possible.”

Coming off them was tough, he admits: “I had terrible side effects. I was in bed for 17 hours a day when I was getting on them and it was a much similar thing while I was getting off them.” 

This year marks 10 years since Manderson landed his first record deal. In that time, he’s witnessed how the music business is “one of the only industries where certain bad behaviours are celebrated”. But the decade has also taught him it’s unrealistic to aim for a consistently happy place – instead, he’s managed to find contentment. 

“I think happiness is something that you feel – like sadness is, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a constant,” he muses. “If there’s any baseline, it’s really just [being] content, and being in a place where you’re able to experience the highs and the lows.”

A key part to finding this balance has been learning to say no, even when that means turning down work. Having been brought up by his ‘Nanny Pat’ in a working-class, Hackney household, it’s something that took years to get used to. “When you’re from a background like mine, there is no safety net, there is no plan B and I think: ‘I have to make this work’” he says. 

But 10 years in the business has afforded him the confidence (and money) to know that turning down one job won’t cause the world to implode. 

“There’s something really important in understanding what is good for you and not just doing what everyone else wants you to do,” he says. “Because if all you ever do is say yes to people, you’re never really being yourself, you’re just being who everyone else wants you to be.” 

The hardest opportunities to turn down are often the charity gigs, he says, that have continued to flood in since the release of his 2015 documentary ‘Suicide and Me’. The documentary followed Manderson as he sought to understand the factors that may have contributed to his father’s suicide, and the reasons why men still account for three-quarters of suicides in the UK

It came at a time when discussion around mental heath and toxic masculinity were still in their infancy, and Manderson wasn’t sure how the film would be received. “I was worried about people seeing me crying, people seeing me upset – even down to things like me being booked for work and stuff,” he recalls. “I worried it was going to affect that, and that people would pass judgement.”

But the response was overwhelmingly positive, teaching Manderson a valuable lesson: it’s okay to be vulnerable. 

“All anyone commended me for was my strength,” he says. “That made me realise there is a strength in vulnerability if you own it and if you’re honest with yourself about what your vulnerabilities are. You run into problems when you try to deny those vulnerabilities and that’s when you become unstuck.”

The documentary catapulted Manderson from rapper to role model and – in a new Gillette campaign – he talks about the role models that have had the greatest impact on his own life.

There’s Nanny Pat, for example, who became his legal guardian as a child after his mum left when he was one. His dad had become a father at 18 and was an intermittent presence in his life. Manderson saw his dad for the last time on his 18th birthday – and was told that he had taken his own life six years later. 

He “hates to think where [he’d] be” without his beloved Nanny Pat, he says. “If I didn’t have her I would have been in care,” he tells me, adding that she taught him hard work while juggling three jobs. “Everything that was thrown at her, she bounced back.” 

His manager Ged, who he’s had since he was 20, has become another parental figure. “Occasionally when I do really well at something, he’ll send me a message and say how proud he is of me,” Manderson says. “Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have had that from my dad, but me and Ged, we’re as much friends and brothers as he is any kind of parental figure.” 

Despite finding ways to manage his mental wellbeing, through his music and these role models, Manderson maintains he’s still a “work in progress”.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen one day from the next,” he says. “I just hope this period where I’m at continues, because it makes life a hell of a lot easier and a hell of a lot more enjoyable.”

This Father’s Day, Gillette is celebrating all the role models that help you be your best. Join Gillette in thanking the people who’ve made a difference in your life. #MyRoleModel

Tired This Morning? How Night Owls Can Retrain Their Body Clocks In 4 Simple Steps

‘Night owls’ who struggle to wake up in the morning could benefit from a few tweaks to their sleeping patterns, according to researchers.

A small study found that, over a three-week period, it was possible to shift the circadian rhythm of so-called night owls using four simple interventions – and there wasn’t a sleeping pill in sight.

The tweaks could lead to significant improvements in sleep/wake timings, better performance in the mornings, improved eating habits and a decrease in depression and stress, say researchers. 

So what’s the secret?

[Read More: 9 relaxing bedroom accessories to help you create a calming oasis]

In this study, 22 healthy individuals – who had an average bedtime of 2.30am and wake-up time of 10.15am – were asked to make four changes to their sleep routine. 

Firstly, they were told to wake up 2-3 hours before regular wake-up time and maximise outdoor light during the mornings. They were also told to go to bed 2-3 hours before their usual bedtime and limit light exposure in the evening.

Another rule was that they had to keep sleep/wake times fixed on both work days and free days (such as the weekend). They also had to have set food times: eat breakfast as soon as possible after waking up, eat lunch at the same time each day, and refrain from eating dinner after 7pm.

The study, conducted by the Universities of Birmingham and Surrey in the UK and Monash University in Australia, showed participants were able to bring forward their sleep/wake timings by two hours, while having no negative effect on sleep duration.

Overall, participants reported a decrease in feelings of depression and stress, as well as in daytime sleepiness – according to the researchers. 

Lead researcher Dr Elise Facer-Childs, from Monash University’s Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, said the findings reveal simple interventions can change the sleep habits of night owls and, in turn, reduce negative elements of mental health and sleepiness, and improve performance.

Study co-author Dr Andrew Bagshaw, from the University of Birmingham, said: “We now need to understand how habitual sleep patterns are related to the brain, how this links with mental wellbeing and whether the interventions lead to long-term changes.”

Dr Facer-Childs added that night owls, compared to morning larks, tended to be more compromised in our society, due to having to fit to schedules that are out of sync with their preferred patterns. “By acknowledging these differences and providing tools to improve outcomes, we can go a long way to achieve optimal productivity and performance,” she concluded.

It’s Not Just Kids Who Need Naps In The Day – Us Parents Do, Too

Children are happier, have fewer behavioural problems and excel academically when they take a nap in the afternoon, a new study suggests. And I can totally believe it. 

The research from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California revealed a connection between midday napping and greater happiness and self control, as well as a higher IQ – the latter particularly evident in older kids.

Nearly 3,000 children aged 9-12 were involved in the study over several years. Their napping frequency and duration were analysed – along with how they behaved and performed at school.

“Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6% increase in academic performance,” co-author Adrian Raine concluded.

“How many kids at school would not want their scores to go up by 7.6 points out of 100?” The report also showed that sleep deficiency and daytime drowsiness is widespread, affecting up to 20% of all children. 

[Read More: When to exercise (and how) for a better night’s sleep]

Sleep researcher Sara Mednick called it “the first comprehensive study of its kind”, adding: “The more students sleep during the day, the greater the benefit of naps on many of these measures.”

Now, this study seems like a bit of a no-brainer to me. Anyone with kids will readily admit that the afternoon nap can change a child’s temperament with almost immediate effect. It’s like recharging their batteries – especially when they’re young – and if they don’t have one, you’re left with a grizzly, easily agitated child, who will be miserable until bedtime. Oh, the joys. 

[Read More: 9 relaxing bedroom accessories to help you create a calming oasis]

My grandson might be younger than the children tested in the study, but nap time is an essential part of his daily routine. Heading to the land of nod every afternoon practically guarantees us a couple of virtually stress-free hours in the evening.

Nap, play, dinner, wind-down, bath, bed. That’s how it goes. When that routine is broken, I’m left with a grandson who falls asleep at the wrong time, usually early evening, then wakes up out of sync and raring to go – at 9pm. 

But who doesn’t feel revitalised if they’re lucky enough to take 40 winks in the afternoon on the sofa? Here’s my two scents: nap time should be made mandatory for everyone – parents included. The UK should seriously consider an afternoon napping culture, for kids and adults. 

After all, if it works for adults in China, surely we can make it work here?

Mum Shares Simple Hack To Help Babies Sleep – All You Need Is One Household Item

If you curse spring and the clocks going forward for the knock-on effects it has on your child’s sleep, you’re not alone. 

I actively look forward to winter, with its dark, early skies and bleak mornings, and that’s because young children – my young children – are like birds. 

They’re up every morning at 6am with the dawn chorus, and when it starts getting light earlier on, so do they. I’ve tried everything, from a portable black-out blind to curtains lined with black-out material, to sticking pieces of black card over the window panes – but light always seems to find a way in. 

Thankfully, a mum in Northern Ireland thinks she has discovered how to end early wake-ups, with a simple – yet achingly effective – solution. And you don’t need to spend a ton of money, or shop somewhere obscure, to get one. 

All that you need…. is a bin bag. 

[Read more: ‘He Uses My Face As A Footrest’: How Long Should We Let Our Kids Sleep In Our Beds?]

Yes. You heard that right. The 31-year-old mum was so tired of her 10-month-old daughter waking up at 4.30 or 5am each day, that she came up with a cunning plan. 

She told Belfast Live: “I was losing my mind trying to figure out what was waking her up every morning. I thought it was hunger but she wasn’t overly fussed on her bottle when she did wake up.

“I tried everything but nothing seemed to work and I had resigned myself to the fact she would forever wake before 5am.”

The unnamed mum said she was inspired by a friend who asked if her daughter’s room was dark enough – because babies sleep better in those conditions due to the ‘sleep hormone’, melatonin.

[Read more: Pokémon Sleep: Is This Every Parent’s Dream Invention?]

“We had blackout curtains in her nursery but I did notice there was still light getting in through the top above the curtain,” the mum explained. 

“I didn’t really want to spend a fortune on new blinds and curtains in case they made absolutely no difference to her sleep so I decided to think outside the box and look for an alternative, and there it was right in my cupboard.”

And in the end, it was simple: she put bin liners up over the edges of the nursery room window where the light was getting in. She said she “didn’t even care what the neighbours must have thought”, as she was so desperate to get more sleep.

“I couldn’t believe it, the first night she slept until 8am, she had never done that before,” she revealed. “I thought it might have been a fluke but she’s sleeping to at least 7.30am every morning now, it’s amazing.”

I think we all know what’s at the top of my shopping list…

Pokémon Sleep: Is This Every Parent’s Dream Invention?

There are some things in life children are just better at than grown-ups – and one of those things is getting up early. They go from horizontal to full of beans in a heartbeat, suddenly requiring you – their hard-working, exhausted parent – to provide them with things like breakfast

It’s particularly galling when they later get grumpy, having sprung up before they’d had enough sleep (particularly as this tends to lead to Tantrum City).

Salvation may be on its way, though, in the unlikely but charming form of Pokémon. The gaming company has promised it will soon do for sleeping what they did for walking with Pokémon Go – gamifying it and making it newly exciting for children who would rather do almost anything else.

Introducing: Pokémon Sleep. 

Announcement 3⃣

What if you could continue training your Pokémon…even in your sleep? 💤

In 2016, Pokémon GO turned the simple act of walking into entertainment, making the entire world into a game. We’re about to do it again, Trainers—this time, for sleeping.

— Pokémon (@Pokemon) May 29, 2019

We’re pleased to announce the development of Pokémon Sleep, a new app from @Pokemon_cojp that tracks a user’s time sleeping and brings a gameplay experience unlike any other!

Several Snorlax were consulted on this, in case you were wondering. #PokemonSleep is coming in 2020. pic.twitter.com/nJ7mJY09Dl

— Pokémon (@Pokemon) May 29, 2019

When Pokémon Go came out in 2016, it was a phenomenon. Screen-obsessed kids who would previously have balked at the idea of going for a walk were all over it. The walks were inevitably spent staring into a screen, sure, but it was a step forward at least.

From the sounds of it, Pokémon Sleep seems set to work a lot like sleep tracker apps, but instead of using sleep stats to reach conclusions like “Guess that’s why I’m so tired!”, players will use them to train and upgrade their Pokémon. If kids won’t stay in bed past six in the morning for Mummy and Daddy, maybe they’ll do it for Snorlax.

Children in the UK don’t get as much sleep as they should. Last year, it was described as “a hidden health crisis”, as statistics showed sharp rises in children and teenagers being hospitalised for sleep disorders.

While full details on how Pokémon Sleep will work haven’t been released yet – and it seems unlikely to be as simple as “more sleep equals more points” – Pokémon has said its aim is for players to “look forward to waking up every day”, and it will be as much about forming good habits to promote healthy sleep as just running the hours up.

It’s not all good news – while Pokémon Go was a free app, Pokémon Sleep will require a special piece of equipment, Nintendo’s Pokémon Go Plus Plus (yes, two pluses), a Bluetooth-enabled sleep tracker that will transmit the child’s sleep data to a smartphone. The device won’t be released until 2020, and so details are pretty thin on the ground at the moment about things such as price, availability and what will happen to data uploaded about your child.

But who knows? If it takes a bit of competitiveness and encouragement from a weird-ass blob thing to persuade a child to get a healthy night’s sleep – and let their parents get a few more minutes in bed – that’s probably not entirely a bad thing.

What Wedding Night Sex Is Really Like: ‘I Had To Get My Mum To Unhook My Dress’

It was 3am in a seedy hotel in Camberwell, south London. With their drunk wedding guests still happily dancing the night away, Olivia, 40, and her new husband Laurie, 39, returned to their room and jumped into bed together. “It would definitely have been weird for us not to have had sex on our wedding day,” Olivia tells me nine years after the big day. “It’s our favourite thing.” 

In fact, she’d so loved her first day being called ‘Mrs’ that she spent all day looking forward to getting between the sheets. So she chucked her red wine-spattered wedding dress into the sink – and had sex. “Weddings are weird because you don’t get to spend much time together,” she says. “You both look amazing and yet you’re often just appreciating each other from across the room. So we couldn’t wait for the our chance just to be together.”

Historically the wedding night was often the first time a couple shared a bed – so you can understand a willingness to power through the exhaustion, drunkeness and awkward-to-remove wedding attire. It’s the reason wedding night sex attained its near-mythical connotations. 

But now the landscape is very different, with the number of couples who co-habit before marrying far outnumbering those who don’t – and many newlyweds admit that for them, wedding night sex didn’t happen at all. 

Natalie*, 27, was expecting her wedding night to be super romantic, intimate and beautiful “just like in the movies”. In fact, when she got married two years ago, she and her husband were so knackered they were asleep the moment their heads hit the pillows. “When we got in bed we just knew sex was off the cards. We were unbelievably tired,” she says.

Our close friends even asked jokingly how we consummated our marriage…”

But while the reality was giving in to exhaustion, there was still an expectation – not just from each other, but also from friends – that their wedding night would be steamy. “Everyone at our wedding kept joking about how wild our wedding night was going to be and they were definitely expecting sex,” she says.  

“Our close friends even asked the next day jokingly about how we consummated our marriage. They all laughed when we told them we were snoring within one minute.”

Natalie and her partner are not alone in swapping sex for sleep. Faustina, 41, who was married 13 years ago, also found her wedding night expectations were put on ice when she and her husband dozed off in the bath before they got a chance to have sex.

“[Wedding sex] dominated all talks amongst my friends and classmates way before I got married. So I thought it was something that was bound to happen. However, on the night we both were too tired and fell asleep in the bathtub.”

Both women say their husbands felt more disheartened that sex hadn’t happened. Natalie says: “My husband was excited about our first night as a married couple and had been imagining all the things we would be doing that night – bless him!”

Karolina, 29, married her partner in Poland five years ago. Neither she nor her husband were bothered that they slept instead of having sex. “We went to bed at 6am – Polish weddings are really long,” she explains. “After 18 hours of stress, party, all we wanted was to get some sleep. It was just another night we spent together.”

Not everyone succumbs to the lure of sleep over sex. Other couples simply prioritise their stomachs. Cara*, 28, who got married in May 2016, said: “By the time we’d got back to our room, all there was left to do was order a burger and chips on room service, take off the dress that had left me with bruises, and rest my throbbing feet.”

For Charlotte and her new husband, there was dinner then admin: “We went to McDonald’s on the way back home, had a feast, made note of gifts and then packed ready for our honeymoon the next morning,” she recalls. “I think we fell asleep to Family Guy. It didn’t bother us.”

For others, just getting undressed for bed proved the impossible obstacle to christening the marriage in the way they’d imagined. Nigel, 62, and his bride got to the honeymoon suite to find a bottle of champagne and a full decanter of brandy. “We shared both but my biggest challenge was yet to come,” he says. “First to get her to the toilet (as the bridesmaids were nowhere to be seen) and then get the dress off her so she could get to bed. Who knew that would be so tough…”

Zoë, 33, who married her husband Ben in September 2017, also struggled. “He got in the shower and I couldn’t get out of my dress. I had to go and find my mum’s room to get her to unhook me as there were lots of tiny buttons, too small for his hands.” Freed of her frock she returned to her new husband. “When I got back to our room, he was asleep in his wedding trousers face down on the bed.”

Tearing themselves away from guests proved tricky for other couples. When Sam and her husband Paul got married, they stayed up all night drinking with old friends they hadn’t seen in a long time. “We had hired the whole hotel and were all staying there, it was such a great day to catch up. I don’t think it is the big deal it used to be. People have sex before marriage and often live together. Many just want to enjoy their wedding day and party with friends and family.”

When the pair finally climbed the stairs to bed they exchanged a kiss and went to bed – Sam left the bridal nightwear she had bought specifically for another night. “I think many couples enjoy great sex on their honeymoon, as we did,” she says.

That certainly seems the case. But props to the newly-weds who do prioritise sex on their wedding day. (Or at least manage to stay awake long enough to have any). Martin, 41, and his wife Lucy had the “best sex” they’d had in ages on their wedding night in 2007, he says – they’d had a brilliant day, were drunk, really in the mood and keen to get down to it.

For Sarah*, 29, and her partner, who got married in 2012 after two and a half years together, they felt the need to consummate their big day – even though they both felt like going to sleep. “Wedding night? You’ve got to seal the deal, right? We had sex because we thought we had to seal the deal even though we were super tired,” she says.

Which is some commitment to marking a sexual milestone – and more than most people manage. While it was definitely a consideration for many of the people we spoke to, many just couldn’t stay awake long enough to see it through. 

Some names have been changed.

Mo Salah Sleeping On The Plane Floor Is Holiday Goals

We all know the misery of trying to sleep on a plane: the eye mask that lets the light in; the serial seat-recliner in the row in front of you; the near-on impossibility of finding a travel pillow that doesn’t crick your neck; and finally dropping off – only to find your neighbour needs the loo.

Or you could just find a spare bit of floor and lie down there. Well, if it’s good enough for Liverpool FC and Egypt football star, Mohamed Salah…

This year’s Golden Boot winner was on a flight out to the team’s hot weather training camp in Marbella, Spain, ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League final against Tottenham, when he was caught in the act… of napping.

[Read More: How to get your trip off the ground if you’re scared of flying]

Salah was captured on Instagram by his teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who panned over the top of his own seat to show the Egyptian midfielder wrapped up in a blanket on the floor – with an airline pillow folded in half (we’ve all been there) – trying to catch some kip on the flight. 

Some of the other Liverpool players, including Virgil Van Dijk and Dejan Lovren, soon gathered around row 20 to witness the sight. As Oxlade-Chamberlain put it: “Egyptian kings need sleep too”.

If only Salah had discovered HuffPost Finds, where we’ve tested a range of sleep aids – from eye masks to sleep sprays and anti-snore pillows. Or when all else fails, our 10 top tips for falling, and staying, asleep on a plane. 

These include staying away from the light (that means your phone and TV screen), listening to white noise, and avoiding sugary snacks. Or, as the cast of TOWIE taught us: no carbs before Marbs, Mo. 

When To Exercise (And How) For A Better Night’s Sleep

Physically tiring yourself out may seem like a logical way to get a good night’s sleep, but exercising too close to bedtime could have the opposite effect.

“Strenuous workouts can stimulate the body and increase our temperature, which can make it difficult to nod off,” explains Alasdair Henry PhD, research manager at Sleepio, an NHS-approved digital sleep-improvement programme. 

We should avoid intense exercise two hours before bedtime to get the best night’s rest, he says. “A drop in body temperature is an important cue for sleep, so counteracting this process with exercise may keep you awake,” he tells HuffPost UK. 

[Read More: What food to eat (and when) for a better night’s sleep]

While there is limited research into how exercise affects sleep the few studies in this area do show working out can help improve sleep, says Henry – providing you do it at the right time of day. “Moderate aerobic exercise can help you fall asleep faster, improve sleep efficiency and sleep quality, and also make you feel more rested in the morning,” he says. 

Although the reasons for these effects are unclear, the benefits are thought to be due to a drop in the body’s temperature in the hours after exercise – which may make it easier to sleep. Exercise can also help improve our mood and reduce feelings of anxiety, Henry adds. 

It makes no difference whether we workout in the early morning or afternoon, the research shows – it’s only working out immediately before bed that can be troublesome. If you already work out later in the evening, however, and haven’t found that it affects your sleep, then there’s no need to change your routine. 

But it’s not just a one-way relationship between sleep and exercise. Personal trainer Dom Thorpe argues that just as exercise can potentially improve sleep, so sleep can also improve how we experience exercise. “Exercising requires recovery time, which is best done when asleep,” he tells HuffPost UK. 

In order to reap the biggest benefit from sleep, Thorpe says you should keep your workouts varied. It’s important to cover the three main types of exercise –cardiovascular, resistance (strength) and flexibility (yoga or similar) – he advises. 

Thorpe agrees with Henry that in an ideal world, we would “train, eat and sleep in that order”, but points out modern life doesn’t always allow us to stick to this routine. “As an alternative, a great way to lead you into a deep sleep would be to do a relaxing form of yoga such as Yin shortly before bed,” he says.