5 ways to ... improve your sleep habits

Many of us firmly believe we need more sleep. However, studies show that our sleep habits, despite our long working hours and round-the-clock home entertainment opportunities, are no worse than they ever were. On average healthy adults need 7 - 71/2 hours sleep, but, says Prof Jim Horne, of Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre: "The acid test of whether you are getting enough sleep is whether you feel alert during the day," barring a brief, natural dip in the afternoon. So, if your slump starts at breakfast, try to:

1 Leave your troubles outside the bedroom: anxiety, stress or over-stimulation will interrupt sleep, so spend time before bed doing soporific, comforting and, most of all, absorbing tasks. Horne recommends jigsaws, walking the dog, knitting and washing up.

2 Get up at the same time every day: no matter when you went to sleep, get up at a regular time. This helps to programme your body clock into a good sleep-wake pattern, and can be hugely helpful for insomniacs.

3 Curtail your naps: if your eyes are drooping in the day, set the alarm for 15 minutes' time. A 15-minute nap can be very helpful but beyond that, you eat into your body's sleep needs and could disrupt your nights.

4 Stay cool: the body needs to cool down during sleep so avoid electric blankets, too hot duvets, or stuffy central heating which can all disturb your sleep.

5 Don't go to bed until you feel sleepy: the longer you count sheep, or, worse still, stimulate your mind with worrying, reading, watching TV in bed or listening to the radio, the harder it will be to actually fall asleep when your body really needs to. If you sleep and wake at your normal time, but feel consistently sleep deprived, talk to your GP.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.