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Secrets of a good night's sleep

SECRETS OF A GOOD NIGHTS SLEEP

By Sheila O'Connor

Want a good night's sleep? Are you fed up with waking up miserable and unable to do a proper day's work because you're feeling irritable and unfocused? Getting a good night's sleep can affect every aspect of your day, including your mood and your ability to be productive. If you suffer from sleepless nights, be aware that you don't have to be this way. Instead, try the following hints for getting a good night's sleep.

Keep the room perfect for sleep

Your body will soon realise that it's time for bed if you manage to keep your room dark, quiet and cool. This means that you should have no sounds or lights that will distract you and keep you awake. So go ahead and close your curtains and turn off any lights. (If the light happens to be outside and you cannot turn it off, consider getting a blackout eye mask-plenty of ravel companies sell them.) If necessary, ask other members of the family to keep the TV volume down low. If noise still bothers you, consider buying a pair of soft earplugs. Many a wife with a snoring husband can attest to just how good these can be! A cool, rather than warm, room is best for a sound night's sleep, so if you have to, keep the window open or even keep on an air conditioner in the room.

Do exercise early in the day

Trying to do exercise at the end of the day is not a good idea. This will only keep you awake. By exercising early in the day you'll actually be able to use more energy during the day and this will leave you tired out and ready to sleep at night- a great thing if you ever tend to toss and turn before finally falling asleep. An added bonus to exercising early on is that you will increase your metabolism and continue to burn calories during the day- no bad thing for anything watching their weight. Sleep after a good workout early on will be more restful and beneficial.

Watch what you eat

It's also a good idea to watch what you eat late at night. Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee and cola and avoid eating too near bedtime as well. It can take around seven hours for caffeine to wear off, so it's best to drink those kinds of beverages before lunchtime. A good evening snack is three cups of air-popped popcorn (comes in a variety of flavours) or even a fat-free yoghurt with a small piece of fruit. It's a good idea to have a final snack about two hours before bed- late night eating can lead to nightmares if your digestive process is working overtime.

De-stress

It goes without saying that feeling relaxed and not stressed is a good way to bring sleep on. If you have worries during the day, try to sort them out before bedtime or if you can't, write them down in a notebook by the side of your bed. That way they will still be there tomorrow! Take a few deep breaths and try to go round each part of your body, deliberately relaxing it. Tense the muscles in your foot, for instance, then let them go. Do the same for your leg muscles and so on, all the way up and around the whole of your body. You will probably fall asleep long before you get to cover all your body. And you never know, the answer to your problem may even come to you in the form of a dream. Just look at the inventor of the sewing machine- he couldn't work out how to do it until he dreamed he was a warrior about to be stabbed by a tribe of angry warriors carrying spears. The spear gave him the idea for an upside-down needle.

Having a routine is key

Your body craves routine. By going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time, even at the weekend, your body will pretty soon know when bedtime has arrived. It will already be programmed to start feeling sleepy just as bedtime arrives. Make sure you give yourself the full eight hours to enjoy sleep; any less and you will just feel sluggish throughout the day.

Turn off all distractions

It might sound like an ideal way to fall sleep-letting the TV lull you to dreamland. But it's not a good idea. TV and computers can actually stimulate your brain and just end up keeping you awake longer. So don't watch TV or feel tempted to send out one more email just before you fall sleep. Much better to read a book and do it with a soft light. You'll be surprised how many books you can get through.

Supplements if needed

Some supplements are actually beneficial should you still have trouble dozing off. Valerian root extract helps promote sleep, as does 5-HTP, a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan which boosts serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical that helps you feel relaxed. Drinks that can help include chamomile tea, which promotes restful sleep.

Sweet dreams!