Sleep plays an important role in our physical health. In fact, it is just as important as eating healthy and exercising. Yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. Everyone’s individual sleep needs vary. In general, most healthy adults are built for 16 hours of wakefulness and need an average of 8 hours of sleep a night. However, some individuals are able to function without feeling sleepy or drowsy after as little as 6 hours of sleep. Others can't perform at their peak unless they've slept ten hours.

A person can develop poor sleep habits (i.e. watching TV in bed or eating too much before bedtime), irregular sleep patterns (sleeping too late, taking long naps during the day) to compensate for lost sleep at night. Some people also develop a fear of not sleeping and a pattern of worrying about the consequences of not sleeping.

People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well. If you are trying to lose weight, getting quality sleep is absolutely crucial. Your body repairs and builds muscle when you are sleeping, and many body builders actually take a nap straight after a workout to get maximum benefit from their training!

There are a few simple things you can do to improve your quality of sleep:-

* keep a regular routine, go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time, but don’t go to bed until you feel tired

* don’t eat a heavy meal late in the evening, this can lead to heartburn and difficulty in falling asleep, opt for something light

* don’t drink caffeine late in the day, instead switch to decaffeinated drinks after 4pm

* the NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise/activity plus two or more strength sessions per week. However, strenuous exercise late in the evening will stimulate the body so if you have problems sleeping you might find that a more calming exercise, such as Yoga or Tai Chi, works better for you, or perhaps even try meditating

* keep your bedroom dark, cool, clean, clutter-free and quiet

* keep your bed for sleep, reading, listening to relaxation music and sex. The mind and body will then create a positive association between these things and the bed

* if you are not asleep within 30 minutes get up and do something relaxing, but not stimulating, until you feel tired and ready to go back to bed. Try to be relaxed about it, don’t clock watch and your natural sleep rhythm should soon return

* ensure that you have a good bed and pillow that is comfortable and suits your need