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There is still much about sleep which scientists do not fully understand, even though it is as essential to our being as eating and breathing.

We do know that sleep allows the body to heal and energy levels to be replenished. Without sufficient sleep our brains cannot function, which can lead to difficulties such as a lack of concentration, the ability to make decisions and good judgments, potentially putting our safety and that of others at risk.

Sleep empowers a healthy immune system, which is important to enable us to fight off illness or disease.

Sleep is also important for growth and provides the opportunity for muscles to repair themselves. In addition to this it gives time for the brain to consolidate memories and process the information, which it has taken in during the day.

There is evidence to suggest that a lack of sleep can lead to an increased risk of certain diseases or health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease.

We take sleep for granted until we have problems with it but there are things which you can do to help to get a good night’s sleep, such as:

- Keeping to a bedtime routine and regular sleeping hours, most adults need between 6 and 8 hours sleep each night. Children and teenagers need significantly more, with children under 5 years of age needing around 12 hours sleep a night.

- Allow time to wind down before bedtime. Perhaps take a warm bath (not hot) to relax the body and then read a book or listen to soothing music to relax the mind.

- Avoid using electronic devices, such as laptops and mobile times at least 1 hour before you go to bed, as the light from the screens can have a negative impact on sleep.

- Try to avoid drinking too much caffeine before bedtime, as this can have stimulating effects, which will keep you awake. The recommended cut off time for alcohol before bedtime is a minimum of 6 hours. Alcohol can also have a negative effect on sleep patterns.

- If something is playing on your mind, write it down before you try to go to sleep, as this will help the mind to declutter. Writing a to do list for the next day will enable you to forget about any necessary upcoming tasks while you sleep and will mean you are more organised for the next day.

- Avoid vigorous exercise just before bedtime, as the increased adrenaline rushing around your body will keep you awake. Gentle exercise, such as stretching, can however help to ease away any aches and pains.

Hypnotherapy can be excellent for helping with sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnoea, as well as improving sleep, by addressing stress overload, breaking an unhealthy sleep cycle, calming the mind and providing healthy coping strategies.

By Marie Liddiard

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