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Trouble sleeping? Try these tips to help you drift off for a comfortable night's snooze

Mirror logo Mirror 23/04/2017 Rosie Hopegood

© Getty Adults need a proper bedtime routine just as much as little ones. While bath, bottle and bed are signposts to a baby’s brain that it’s almost time to fall asleep, grown-ups can create their own sleepy cues.

"That’s why some people swear Horlicks helps them sleep," says sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley. "But it’s the 30-minute ritual of getting it ready and signalling to the body that it will be time for bed soon."

Prepare to snooze about 30 minutes before you turn in – create a routine that will signal to your body that it’s time to go to sleep: herbal tea, a hot bath, reading a book.

"The body loves to go to bed and get up at the same time each day," adds Dr Neil.

A weekend lie-in can throw you off course by 45 minutes. To avoid this, go to bed at about the same time every night and avoid lying in for more than 45 minutes after your usual getting up time.

Sleep problem 1: ‘Every night I wake up at 2.30am and can’t get back to sleep’

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"Difficulty staying asleep is the second most common sleep problem (after not getting to sleep)," says sleep therapist Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, author of Tired But Wired: How To Overcome Sleep Problems.

"Waking between 2-4am is the most difficult time to drop back off – you’re too alert because your body thinks it’s already had the most useful phase of sleep"

TRY: If you do wake up, avoid looking at the clock or checking your phone. Dr Nerina recommends this technique to help you drift back off: close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Place your left hand on your belly button, right hand on your heart. Use your whole trunk to breathe, so that both your hands are moving up and down. Breathe deeply and slowly, counting each breath until you begin to fall asleep.

Sleep problem 2: ‘I wake up feeling groggy and tired, even when I’ve slept for a full 8 hours’

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If waking up feels like a struggle, it’s likely you’re interrupting your body when it’s in full sleep swing. The body sleeps in 90-minute cycles, divided into layers of light, deep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. REM is the deepest.

"Dreamless REM sleep is anti-ageing, great for the immune system and repairs the body," says Dr Nerina. "If you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, you’ll feel refreshed."

TRY: When it’s time to hit the hay, calculate how many 90-minute cycles you can squeeze in before you need to wake up, and set your alarm to go off at the end of a cycle. For example, if you need to wake up at 8am, aim to drop off at 9.30pm, 11pm or 12.30am. Consider investing in a FitBit Fitness Tracker, which uses your heart rate to monitor which stage of the sleep cycle you are in, meaning you can plan to wake up at the optimum time.

Sleep problem 3: ‘I can’t seem to get to bed before midnight, even when I’m exhausted’

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You might think that as long as you’re getting eight hours in, you’re getting all the zzzs you need. But quality of sleep is just as important as quantity.

"The most important sleep you can have is the 90-minute sleep cycle you have before midnight," explains Dr Nerina. "People who go to bed after midnight miss this stage and sleep is often restless.’ We’ve evolved to go to bed between 8pm and midnight for the ideal ratio of light, deep and REM sleep.

TRY: "Go to bed at about 10pm to ensure you take advantage of the richest phase of sleep," says Dr Nerina.

Start winding down an hour before bed, reducing screen time and avoiding any stimulating activities. Make yourself a chamomile tea, as it has a calming effect on the brain, slowing down memory and attention span temporarily. When you feel sleepy, go to bed straight away and don’t try to power through. Make yourself wake up at the same time every day – after a week of doing this, you should be able to tell what the right bedtime is for you.

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