Published: 06:00, 26 February 2020
| Updated: 20:24, 26 February 2020
Nearly a third of us regularly experience poor quality sleep, according to the latest figures.
This not only affects your mood, concentration, and memory, but can have serious health consequences if it continues long-term - as thousands of people in Kent know to their cost.
KMTV examine the importance of getting enough sleep
Sleep deprivation - regularly getting less than seven hours a night - is known to increase your chances of suffering a stroke and contracting life-threatening diseases, and could also put you at risk of losing your driving licence.
Despite this, research indicates many of us tend to focus on our diet and exercise and often overlook the importance of a good night's shut-eye.
So ahead of World Sleep Day next month, we've compiled a list of tips from experts to help you ensure you wake up feeling refreshed.
It may seem impossible depending on your job or your social life, but experts say we should be avoiding social media at least 90 minutes before we go to bed.
This is because exposure to 'blue light' emitted by electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptops, and televisions, gives our bodies signals to stay awake by suppressing the sleep hormone melatonin and disturbing our body's circadian rhythm - the internal process regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
One way to reduce the impact of this is to use 'night mode' settings on your devices in the evenings.
You can also buy amber glasses that specifically filter out blue light from screens.
It's said to be the world's most popular drug and in the UK alone we gulp down 70 million coffees a day.
The health benefits - such as boosting energy levels, lowering the risk of diseases such as cancer, and reducing depression, are well documented, but we need to be careful not to overdo it.
Experts say you can actually have as much coffee as you want - but should stop at 12pm.
This is because caffeine - which is also contained in energy drinks and some teas - remains in the body for at least seven hours afterwards meaning it can interfere with your sleep at bedtime, according to Matthew Walker's international best-selling book Why We Sleep.
Instead we're urged to drink non-caffeinated herbal tea and sparkling water. Camomile tea in the evening is also said to promote relaxation before sleep.
The perfect temperature for sleeping is said to be around 17C.
Before we fall asleep, our bodies naturally cool by one or two degrees as a signal for the brain to start shutting down its arousal signals.
It may seem counter-intuitive but research shows taking a hot shower or bath an hour before bed can not only make you feel naturally sleepier, but also improve the quality of the sleep you get.
This is because the rapid cooling of your body that happens afterwards changes your core temperature and helps to regulate your circadian rhythm.
We're surrounded by the constant temptation to eat and the abundance of food means we often do so out of sync with our body's natural rhythms, which hinders the quality of our sleep.
Experts say this goes back to our evolutionary roots when hunter-gatherers had to survive regular periods without food and tended to only eat during daylight hours.
Essentially, we're not meant to be taking on food in the run up to bedtime as key bodily functions shut down in the evening and overriding this puts pressure on our systems and interferes with our sleep.
To get around this, it's recommended you avoid eating anything two hours before you go to bed.
Doing this can also help you to inadvertently dip your toe into micro-fasting and it is said consuming all your food within a 12-hour window can improve your immune system, gut health, lower your blood sugar levels, and help realign your circadian rhythm.
Modern life means we often spend much of the day indoors - either at home, in the office, or travelling to work - reducing our exposure to natural light.
This has been proven to disrupt our circadian rhythm, which can harm a range of the body's natural functions and negatively impact our sleep.
In his book The Four Pillar Plan, Dr Rangan Chatterjee says our exposure to the morning sun is "a critical part of our evolutionary heritage".
He recommends we spend at least 20-30 minutes outside each morning to expose us to natural light.
This can be as simple as having your morning coffee in the garden, going for a walk, or if you are driving somewhere parking your car a 10-minute walk from your destination.
Many people with sleeping issues swear by it, but while drinking alcohol can help you fall asleep ultimately it will not be of good quality and will leave you feeling more tired in the morning.
Most people are likely to experience frequent awakenings, night sweats, and will probably also have to get up to go to the toilet.
Scientists say this is because alcohol hinders your melatonin level - a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
It is also one of the most powerful suppressors of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which promotes learning and memory.
Therefore it is therefore recommended you don't drink alcohol at least four hours before going to bed.
Breathing exercises are said to be a helpful way to relax before bedtime, particularly for anyone suffering from sleeping problems.
Some followers of the 4-7-8 breathing technique say it has cured their insomnia by getting them to nod off within minutes.
Added benefits are also helping relax your mind and fight stress and anxiety.
If can't get to sleep after 20 minutes, the latest advice is to get up and do something else - not too stimulating - before going back when you eventually feel sleepy.
This is to try and ensure your mind does not associate your bedroom with sleeping issues, which can make it even more difficult to get a good night's rest.
Do you have a sleeping problem? Take our quiz to find out
Experts say there is not one specific "sleep hack" that is more important than any other as each of our bodies will react differently to each suggestion.
And they insist while these may seem like minor adjustments if you add each of them together they can potentially make a significant difference.
If you find yourself struggling to make changes it's important to remember you usually need to do something at least 21 times before it becomes a habit.
More by this authorGeoffrey Bew
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