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Sleep solutions: four easy to action tips for better shut eye every night

Getting quality slumber is key to our wellbeing – look forward to a sound night's sleep with our advice

If you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep, especially in these unsettling times, you are not alone. A survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that six in 10 of us are getting too little sleep – and that figure has risen by a fifth over the last few years.

Below are some of our go-to sleep solutions recommended by experts:

Rest and routine 

A mindful, relaxed bedtime routine signals to your brain that you are preparing for sleep. The more ingrained this becomes, the more those links strengthen and the better the sleep, so say the experts.

Recommended practices include drinking a hot non-caffeinated drink, taking a bath and reading. These are all actions that help to promote the 'rest and digest' side of the nervous system.  

Call time out on technology  

Research suggests that taking our gadgets into the bedroom can cause ‘electronic insomnia,' because exposure to bright lights from computer or mobile phone screens can interfere with our circadian rhythm, or body clock.

We naturally start winding down at around 9pm, but this can be confused by exposure to bright light, such as the blue light which comes from computer, tablet or mobile phone screens, which stops our bodies secreting the sleep hormone melatonin.  

Gentle exercise 

The Sleep Council's Great British Bedtime Report found that exercise can be the differentiating factor between those of us who can't sleep and those who sleep soundly, with 32 per cent of those who exercise daily saying they sleep very well most nights.  

The American Sleep Foundation identifies the body's post-exercise drop in temperature as an aid to better sleep, and research suggests that exercise may also reduce insomnia by decreasing arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms.  

The good news is you don't have to work up a heavy sweat to feel the benefits. Gentle exercise such as Hatha yoga or a walk around the block can be enough to promote falling asleep.  

Sleep-friendly foods 

Nutrition can play an important factor in addressing sleep problems. Avoid stimulants like coffee before bedtime and go for cocoa, guarana or yerba mate tea instead. These include the antioxidant theobromine, which supports the immune function and reduces restlessness at bedtime.

Research shows that a lack of tryptophan deficiency leads to a serotonin deficiency, one of the hormones that influences our circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. This magical ingredient can be found in turkey, soy beans and pumpkin seeds.

Foods high in magnesium such as dark, leafy greens and avocados could be your key to the land of nod. One study of older adults with insomnia found that magnesium had a positive effect on the quality of their sleep, from the length of time they slept to their ease in waking up.

Cherries are another good, sleep-friendly food as they are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, a hormone in your body that promotes sleep.

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