Eat right, sleep tight
Lack of sleep is a common complaint, with only one in 10 of us saying we always get a good night. What you eat can really help, as our nutritionist Fiona Hunter explains.
Did you sleep well last night? If not, then the chances are that today you're feeling jaded and not as productive as usual. Studies have found a relationship between the quantity and quality of sleep and health problems, such as the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and depression. Lack of sleep is also believed to suppress the immune system, leaving you vulnerable to infections.
Although seven hours is usually cited as the amount of sleep we need, there is no magic number. We tend to need slightly less sleep as we age, but sleep needs are also individual. You may function best on seven hours a night, while someone else may need nine or as few as four hours to lead a happy, productive life.
What to try...
Drinking a glass of warm milk before bed will help you to sleep better - it's not just an old wives' tale. Dairy products are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, as well as calcium, both of which boost the levels of sleep-inducing substances serotonin and melatonin.
Eating a carbohydrate-rich snack, like a slice of toast or a bowl of cereal, an hour or so before going to bed stimulates the release of insulin. This helps to clear amino acids that compete with tryptophan from the bloodstream, allowing more of this sleep-inducing amino acid to enter the brain.
Herbal teas, such as camomile, lime blossom, orange blossom and valerian, have a sedative effect.
Foods that aid sleep include yogurt, milk, cheese, oats, bananas, poultry, eggs, peanuts and tuna - all contain good amounts of tryptophan.
Try a relaxing routine before bed, like a warm bath or some gentle yoga or stretching. Establish a regular bedtime and waking-up schedule as this helps set your body clock to these times.
Some research links low calcium intake with sleep problems. Dairy products are the best source of calcium and if you don't eat at least three servings of dairy products a day, you may be lacking in it, so it could be worth taking a calcium supplement.
If you suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome, a constant urge to move the legs, often accompanied by a tingling sensation you may be short of iron, according to scientists from the Sleep Disorder Unit at the New England Medical Center.
Make sure your bedroom is neither too hot or cold. A dab of lavender oil on your pillow aids relaxation, too.
NEXT: What to avoid