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Chronic insomnia is a condition that affects millions of people all over the world, where individuals find it difficult or impossible to sleep.

The NHS Inform defines insomnia as a challenge to stay asleep “for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning." While it's treatable and can be targeted in a variety of ways, it can be hugely debilitating for those who suffer with it.

Changing your sleep habits, diagnosing underlying issues like mental or physical health condition or using over-the-counter sleeping medication can combat insomnia, but therapy can also help, according to a recent study.

The study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, has found that therapy may actually be the best choice of treatment.

Researchers at Queen's University Ontario, Canada, found that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps to fight chronic insomnia successfully, despite the fact that it's often used to combat mental health problems like anxiety and depression.

CBT can apparently be used to change the way your mind thinks about sleep. It's regularly offered through a therapist with "the number of sessions you need depending on the difficulty you need help with.”

The British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies describes CBT as therapy which is “based on the theory that thoughts, feelings, and what we do and how our body feels are all connected.”

The Guardian reports that the study was conducted through “four randomised control trials, with between 66 and 201 participants of mixed ages.”

Researchers from the trials found “that participants fell asleep on average nine to 30 minutes sooner after completing a course of CBT for insomnia and experienced a reduction of between 22 and 36 minutes in the amount of time spent awake after going to sleep.”

In the study, data analysts found that those who received CBT treatment for between four to six sessions found improvement with their insomnia and that these improvements “were generally well maintained for 3-12 months post-treatment.”

This was compared to the results of those who received treatment “in which the format or content veered substantially from conventional CBT which were less conclusive.”

With blue light from laptop and phone screens increasingly causing sleep disruption, and considering how hard it is to switch our brains off from the hectic attention-grabbing modern lifestyle, CBT therapy sounds great to us.

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Christmas is the time for plenty of good grub, spending WAY too much time with the family and just taking it easy.

If fitness is a big part of your life or you're looking to keep off the pounds over the festive period, we've got some tips and tricks for staying in shape.

However, we have to say that you SHOULD indulge over the Crimbo and don't even think about the calories you're consuming.

Walks with the gal

It's a rare occasion that all the gals are off work and are free to meet up.

A walk in the park with your closest friends is a great way to move over Christmas and it's a great excuse to get away from the family for an hour or two.

It is also an activity that you can tailor into your festive schedule, so it could be a quick 20 min chat-up or a two-hour stroll.

Ice Skating

It's the best winter fun around and ice skating can help to digest all the mince pies you've inhaled.

In general, a 45-minute muck-about on the ice will melt away 451 calories.

So get the fluffy socks out and lace up to enjoy some winter fitness.

Hiking

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Wrap up warm and get the hiking boots on.

There are plenty of trails and hikes to discover over the festive period.

It will give you an opportunity to reconnect with nature and to slow down after a year of working.

Water

Central heating, consuming large amounts of salt and being inactive can lead to one thing – dehydration.

So make sure that you keep one healthy habit this Crimbo and keep the water on hand.

Your body will thank you for it as it attempts to digest an uncountable number of roses sweets. 

Christmas Day swim 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Change up the way you start your Christmas day with a dip in the sea.

Make sure you find a safe swimming spot and enjoy the freezing cold, crisp open water.

Cold water boasts many healing properties such as easing depression.

It's a great way to end the year. 

5km Festive run

It's a tradition for a lot of households to do a 5 km run to kick off the festive season.

If you can drag any family member out on Christmas morning, it's a perfect way to start the day.

If your boyfriend's relatives do a 5km run for fun – we are sending you sympathy hugs (and there's still time to break-up with him before Christmas).

But they might be onto something as the run will ignite those endorphins (aka happy hormones) – and it doesn't matter if you run, walk or crawl the 5 km.

Stepping your way into the sales

Get in those steps as you hit the sales this year.

Elbows out as you wade your way through the crowds and snap up some bargains.

All your muscle power will come in handy as you wrestle the last pair of Gucci gloves out of an old lady's hands – they're stronger than they look.

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Has anyone else been singing along to Last Christmas on your morning commute or have I been bitten by the Christmas bug a little too early?

I adore Christmas music and once December rolls around it’s all I want to listen to.

Whether its Fairytale of New York or Driving Home for Christmas, I’ll sing along to every classic.

And it turns out it’s really good for us.

A recent study has discovered that Christmas music actually has a positive impact on our health.

Researchers at McGill University explained that Christmas music makes us feel happy and upbeat because it can often trigger happy memories in our minds.

The team gathered a group of people to take part in an experiment to prove their point. They split the group into four and got each of them to listen to four genres of music- happy, peaceful, scary and sad.

The researchers discovered that when the people listened to happy music, they thought of happy memories.

Christmas music is one of my favourite things about the holidays so this news has made me feel pretty merry. 

I hate to say I told you so to all of the Grinches out there but… I told you so.

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It has long been claimed that flowers have a therapeutic effect on those who surround themselves with them, but science had yet to truly back it up.

Research conducted by the American Society For Horticulture Science has revealed that fresh flowers can have the ability to ease feelings of anxiety, and even physical pain. 

The study evaluated whether or not plants have an influence on surgical patients, and we're pretty surprised by these results. 90 participants were split into rooms with plants or without, and those with foliage feelings have different outcomes.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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According to the research, those who were exposed to flowers had lower heart rates and blood pressure, decreased ratings of fatigue, anxiety and pain, and harboured more positive feelings and higher satisfaction about their rooms.

It's now suggested that flowers should be 'complementary medicine' for recovering patients. It's time to click your fingers and insist that a crowd of men throw a bouquet at you every few minutes…for health reasons.

Flowers are often the go-to gift for celebrating milestones, or for offering messages of hope or condolences. Good old science has just given us the opportunity to buy our own blooms, for self-care.

According to a study published in Complementary Therapies In Medicine, bouquets of flowers can reduce our stress levels.

The researchers gave college-age women a fresh vase of roses for their accommodation, and the subjects felt more relaxed than they did before. Whether it's psycho-somatic, or true therapy, it seems to work.

It seems like an easy breezy way to experience multiple health benefits while keeping your home aesthetically lush. Apparently, indoor plants and gardening come with health advantages similar to gym workouts.

We like this, we like this A LOT.

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As if being sick wasn't bad enough, it now seems the we may have to part ways with some of our favourite beauty products if we want to prevent the illness form reoccurring. 

Sure, a a little bit of lippy and a lashing of mascara might make us feel better when we're in the depths of a bad dose, but when you consider the amount of germs that could be living in your cosmetics collection, you might want to consider ditching the makeup if you don't fancy having to dispose of some of your favourite products. 

According to The Independent, Morgan Statt, a health and safety investigator for consumersafety.org, confirmed there a multiple health risks associated with using makeup while we're poorly. 

“You should absolutely dispose of any lip products after you’ve been sick," says Statt.

“Your lip linings are a natural gateway to your respiratory tract which puts you at an additional risk of infection and illness.” 

But lipsticks aren't the only offenders, Morgan told SHEmazing that certain eye products can provide the ideal conditions for bacteria to grow. 

"If you've had some sort of eye infection, like conjunctivitis, it's best to toss out any eye makeup you were using when you got the infection. Dark, moist places like a mascara tube are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria, which could spur on inflammation," she said. 
 
"If you only suffered a cold and don't want to part with your products, you can salvage certain ones. If you use an eyeliner pencil, cut off the top portion that you used while you were sick and disinfect it with an alcohol wipe. The same can be said for your favourite eyeshadow palette. Get rid of lingering germs by disinfecting with an alcohol wipe."

But wait, all hope is not lost! 

If you really can't bring yourself to bin your favourite lippy, you can salvage it by cutting off the top and disinfecting the tube with rubbing alcohol. 

However, if you are really concerned about germs, Morgan says that dumping the product is the best option. 

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It's Monday, it's cold and very few of us relished the idea of going to work this morning.

But struggling with Monday Morning Blues has nothing on the feeling of despair which descends upon many when their alarm goes off to signal another day in a job they hate.

And while we've all been trained to appreciate a regular income, a recent study has suggested that a lack of job satisfaction has a more negative impact on your mental health than being unemployed.

Reflecting on trends seen since the recession, the study, which was published in the journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, explores the correlation between psychosocial factors and the job in which an individual is employed.

The study, which analysed the experience of more than 7,000 respondents, sought to prove that psychosocial characteristics –  such as unfair pay, control levels and job complexity – can have as detrimental an effect on an individual's psyche as a period of unemployment.

Commenting on the study, lead author, Peter Butterworth, explained: "Those who moved into optimal jobs showed significant improvement in mental health compared to those who remained unemployed."

"Those respondents who moved into poor-quality jobs showed a significant worsening in their mental health compared to those who remained unemployed."

"The health benefits of becoming employed were dependent on the quality of the job," the study explained.

"Moving from unemployment into a high quality job led to improved mental health however the transition from unemployment to a poor quality job was more detrimental to mental health than remaining unemployed."

We know there's rent to make, bills to pay and loans to cover, but it's something worth keeping in mind, right?

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No matter how much you might love your job, there are few among us who don't find ourselves struggling against those classic Sunday Night Blues as Monday morning creeps ever closer.

And such is the extent of our weekly woe, many of us fail to realise the true potential of a well-spent Sunday evening.

Relaxing and unwinding before diving back into the working week is essential, but so too is putting a little prep and planning into ensuring a successful week ahead.

From brisk walks and at-home manicures to goal checklists, reclaiming your Sunday with our simple P plan has never been so easy.

Press pause

There comes a point on Sunday evening when you have to accept that the weekend is coming to an end, and it's time to look ahead and stop clinging to the last vestige of the previous days' festivities.

While it sounds harsh, there is no point in dragging your Sunday Fear into Monday morning because you were unable to draw a line under your days off.

Telling yourself you're simply pressing pause on your down-time until next weekend is a simple way to focus your mind.

Plan your week

Much of the anxiety brought about by Sunday night stems from concern over commitments and responsibilities awaiting us in the week ahead.

Take 30 minutes to sit down and consider the next five days, so you have a clear idea of what is expected from you.

It sounds like a bummer to consider work-related events during time-off, but it really helps to alleviate stress.

Pamper yourself

After you've accepted the fact that work is looming, and dedicated some time to considering the week ahead, it's time to focus on treating yo'self!

Why not indulge your hands with an at-home manicure from Sally Hansen which guarantees a salon finish without the price tag? With an incredible array of products which protect, condition and strengthen your nails, Sally Hansen provides you with all the tools need for a high-quality treatment from the comfort of your own home.

Taking the time to pamper yourself on a Sunday evening is a guaranteed way to relax, and ease yourself into the next five days.

Pound the streets

It's rare you'll return from a brisk walk and not feel much better than when you left.

Shake off the cobwebs from the weekend's excesses by grabbing your runners and going for a 30 minute walk around your neighbourhood.

Not only will it help you sleep better (something that is absolutely vital on a Sunday night), but it will help clear your head if your planning hasn't quite done the job!

Prepare your outfit

A very simple way to rid yourself of Sunday night fear is to prepare an outfit (from underwear to accessories) for the following morning.

Take the time to iron your clothes, and tidy out your handbag so your Monday morning doesn't involve frantically rooting through your laundry bin or fighting your way through mountains of receipts in search of your Leap Card.

Covering the little things makes Monday mornings so much more doable.

Praise and preach

Now is the time to truly relax… because it is still the weekend, after all!

Praise yourself for getting ahead of the game by tending to vital tasks, give props to yourself for taking the time to treat yourself, and remind your friends to do the same by getting straight on WhatsApp and preaching the good word!

 

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Sally Hansen

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How many times have you heard someone say, "sorry I can't, I'm on a low carb diet." – cue a serious eye-roll.

Hands up for the many times you've heard a family member, friend or co-worker say they're following an Atkins or Keto diet.

There is no denying that cutting carbs is a popular way to lose weight and to be fair, the majority of us have given it a go.

However, new research has provided us a reason to embrace the bagel, because scientists have found cutting carbs is shortening our lives.

Yes, you're miserable and you're actually doing more harm than good by avoiding your mum's potatoes.

The study published in the Lancet Public Health journal investigated the link between carbohydrate intake and mortality.

The research followed 15,400 Americans over 25 years and showed that a moderate cut in carbohydrates is much healthier than a dramatic one. 

The scientists collected data from participants' questionnaires which included portion size, and the food and drink they consumed. 

They then went onto estimate how many calories each person obtained from carbs, protein and fat.

However, before you raid the bread bin, moderation is key.

The study suggests that a diet both high and low in carbohydrates are associated with increased mortality.

Those who ate a moderate amount, which means 50–55 percent of their diet came from carbs, lived longer than those who followed high and low carb diets.

Scientists predicted that those in the moderate group had an extra four years of life on those who adopted an extra low-carb diet (less than 30 percent of their energy came from carbs.)

Compared to the low-carb group, moderate carb eaters were expected to enjoy a further 2.3 years of living (30-40 percent coming from carbs.)

And, as for the high-carb bunnies – those who got 65 percent or more of their energy from carbs, would live 1.1 years less than the moderate group. 

It's time to bin the Atkins book – the study also showed that plant-based protein and fat is a healthier swap for carbs, than animal-based products.

Their findings discovered that the risk of death increased when carbs were exchanged for "animal-derived fat or protein" and the risk decreased when it was substituted with plant-based foods. 

Leading the research, Dr Sara Seidelmann, clinical and research fellow in cardiovascular medicine from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told the BBC:

"Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight-loss strategy.

"However, our data suggests that animal-based low carbohydrate diets, which are prevalent in North America and Europe, might be associated with shorter overall life span and should be discouraged.

"Instead, if one chooses to follow a low carbohydrate diet, then exchanging carbohydrates for more plant-based fats and proteins might actually promote healthy ageing in the long term."

If this research is anything to go by, carbs are your friend and not your enemy.

Moderation and balance diets seem to always rule out.

However, if you are changing up your diet – make sure you talk to your doctor before you do.

Now I'm off to indulge in some pasta!

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It seems incredibly cruel that whenever the sun comes out and the masses are frolicking through green fields with a warm breeze on their skin, hayfever sufferers are forced into miserable seclusion.

Everyone else gets through harsh winter weather by promising themselves better days when the sun comes out – for us, damp winter days are the highlight of our year.

But it's not all bleak – here are some top tips that will help you stay on top of the pollen.

Don’t hang clothes outside to dry

Yes, it’s great drying weather, but it’s also great pollen weather.

Avoid ‘high pollen’ activities

Well you couldn’t possibly be expected to mow the grass or trim the hedges in your condition; the hubby will just have to take this one for the team.

Skip the woodland walk

This is an obvious one, but avoid anywhere with a lot of vegetation. The good news is the pollen count lessens the closer you are to the sea, so you’ll just have to take a trip to the beach.

Keep windows and doors closed

Alas, the cooling breeze can’t be yours on a hot day. Stop pollen from floating into your house and invest in a few fans to keep you cool instead.

Quarantine the pet

You may not be allergic to cat or dog hairs, but if those little guys have been outside, they’re bound to have pollen clinging to their fur, so keep them out of main living areas.

Decontaminate

Change your outfit and shower whenever you get home as pollen has an irritating habit of clinging to your clothes and hair when you’re out and about. Gosh darn, the hubby will just have to make the dinner this evening…

Keep on top of housework

As if you're not suffering enough, it’s important you vacuum your house regularly and dust with a damp cloth to catch the sneaky pollen grains that do make it inside.

Wear sunglasses

These will help minimise the amount your eyes come in contact with pollen and wrap-around glasses giving you the best protection. At least you'll look cool!

Image result for brian the breakfast club sunglasses gif

And finally, don’t keep fresh flowers in the house

Because obviously.

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A healthy heart is a long-term investment.

According to Irishheart.ie, the nation’s heart and stroke charity, ‘more than 9,000 people lost their lives in 2016 to cardiovascular disease with almost half dying from heart disease.’

‘Cardiovascular disease includes all diseases of the heart and circulation but most commonly it refers to coronary heart disease (angina, heart attack), stroke and other blood vessel diseases.

‘According to the Vital Statistics Annual Report 2016 from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), there were a total of 9,237 deaths attributed to diseases of the circulatory system or cardiovascular disease in 2016, of which 4,768 were men and 4,469 were women.’

This number is unnecessarily high. With the support and research carried out by organisations like Irish Heart, there is no reason not to be educated and take active steps to ensure your heart’s health, for your future. We have compiled some of our top tips for ways to look after your heart every day. These small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.

Exercise

Having a high BMI can increase your chances of experiencing diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all risk factors in heart disease. Excess weight around the stomach is especially dangerous. Not being active on a regular basis increases your risk of stroke by 50%, according to Irish Heart.

Heart Ireland have adapted their healthy community exercise programme to make it Covid-friendly, by creating the Slí na Sláinte programme, which encourages people to walk more and get more health benefits from their walking. The programme brings together groups of people interested in getting more exercise for the sake of their health and maps out walking routes, creates community and sets challenges for members, making getting healthy a sociable and accessible activity.

Quit smoking

Obvious, but difficult. The effects of smoking on your body can lead to lung disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. The build-up of plaque and hardened arteries puts the heart under increased pressure, raising chances of experiencing hypertension causing a stroke.

If the first try didn’t work out, there’s nothing to stop you from trying again – most people’s first tries at this don’t stick. Try gradually cutting down, reducing your intake every few days, rather than quitting entirely cold turkey at the get-go.

Get a good night’s sleep

Adults require 7-9 hours of quality sleep in order to keep their bodies functioning as efficiently as possible.

Good sleep refreshes the body’s cells. Not getting enough sleep could be due to stress factors in your life or a poor diet. Check out our article here on how to get a good night’s sleep.

Reduce stress

Easier said than done, right?

It’s not so much about reducing stresses in your life – because if there was a way to do that, we’d all be doing it. It’s much more so about how you handle the stress in your life. Constantly battling anxiety about every misstep and misfortune that comes your way is not sustainable.

Stress takes a physical toll on your body as well as mental. We can come to lean on unhealthy crutches as coping mechanisms, such as food or alcohol. Instead, try to make room in your life for safer, healthier options for reducing stress. Yoga, meditations and exercise all release stress-reducing hormones and when practised regularly, can drastically reduce our panicked reaction at the first signs of stress.

Hydrate!

We cannot over-emphasise the importance of a high water intake for your overall health. Dehydration thickens the blood meaning the heart has to work that bit harder to pump it throughout your body.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight, so dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening conditions such as heart attack or heat stroke

 Upping your water intake to the recommended 11 cups (2.7 litres) for women and 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) for men can make all the difference!

Diet

Your dietary choices affect blood pressure and cholesterol levels. High blood pressure causes your blood vessels to lose their elasticity. The stiffening and narrowing of arteries can result in a blockage or clot forming. There are two main types of cholesterol – HDL or good cholesterol and LDL or bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol mops up the cholesterol left behind in your arteries and carries it to the liver where it is broken down. Bad cholesterol sticks to the walls in your arteries making them narrow.

A diet high in salt increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Eating foods high in saturated fats (butter, hard margarine, lard, cream, fatty meat, cakes, biscuits and chocolates) can raise your cholesterol levels.

So cut back a little on the salt on your dinner. Check the level of salt and fat in some of your regular go-tos and see if you can switch them out for something with slightly lower levels. Our diets have become so saturated with salt that we need an unnecessary amount to ‘really taste it’. In reality, our taste buds have just gotten used to that level, so a normal amount of salt tastes bland to us. Reducing will feel bland at first, but eventually your taste buds will adjust, and your heart will thank you for it!

Sources; Irish Heart, Absolute Health, The Heart Foundation

 

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Leaving your warm and cosy bed on a dreary morning is one of the worst feelings ever. We'd honestly kill to curl up for an extra ten minutes but work beckons.

If the thought of pulling a sickie is the only thing getting you through right now, it's probably best you draw on the results of a study which established the best time to do it.

According to a market research study, if you want to be in with a good chance of convincing your boss that a day in the scratcher is the only thing for you, then you better send that mail at 06.38 on a Tuesday morning.

The study, which harnessed the experience of 1,000 employees, established that this particular day is more likely to elicit sympathy from your boss, unlike a last-minute Monday or Friday sickie.

Oh, and if you're wondering what your excuse should be, wonder no more.

The bog-standard 'upset stomach' is your go-to guy in this case because, really, who wants any further details on that one?!

Make of that information what you will, ladies.

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The horrid norovirus is making its annual rounds and we’re praying we don’t catch it this winter. The common stomach bug is highly contagious and causes vomiting and diarrhoea. 

There is no specific cure, so it has to be left to run its course though it shouldn’t last more than a couple of days.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 people per week can catch norovirus in a peak period. 

Symptoms:

The first sign of norovirus is usually an abrupt feeling of nausea followed by sick feeling followed by forceful vomiting and watery diarrhoea.

Some people may also have: A raised temperature (over 38C/100.4F), headaches, stomach cramps and aching limbs.

Symptoms usually appear one to two days after you have become infected but they can start sooner. Most people recover fully within a couple of days.

Aside from the risk of becoming dehydrated, the illness is not usually dangerous and there are usually no long-lasting effects from having norovirus. However, it can be a pretty unpleasant experience while you have it.

What is the treatment for Norovirus (Winter-vomiting bug)?

The winter vomiting bug is a virus so there is no cure, it is therefore best to let the illness run its course and you will fight off the infection within a few days. 

It’s important that you drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol for any fever, aches of pains. 

To reduce the risk of passing the virus onto others, ensure that your hands are washed regularly and that you stay at home until they are clear of symptoms for 48 hours. Avoid visiting elderly people, ill family/friends and pregnant women until the symptoms have been gone for two full days.

Doctors say:

Doctors have urged people with the virus to stay away from GP surgeries and hospitals, unless absolutely necessary.  

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