Trouble going to sleep? Here's 9 tips and tricks for people getting no sleep – including why you SHOULD eat cheese before bed

You are not the only one. Many of us struggle to drift off to the land of nod, no matter how tired we are.

Why do people struggle to go to sleep?

One of the main causes is our inability to switch off from work and our social lives, Lisa Artis of the Sleep Council told The Sun Online.

She said: "These days we are so over-wired and over-connected to everything that we really struggle to just come off being 24-hours available.

"About 20 years ago you would come home from work and that would be it, but we all come home with work phones these days and we check emails and social media accounts.

"People feel like they can't switch off properly. It's really important that people find the time to wind down properly before bed."

But that's easier said than done, I hear you cry!

Here Lisa shares a simple 10-step plan to get you off to the land of nod…

1. Write a list

We've all been there: Your head hits the pillow and your mind starts swirling – you can't stop thinking about all the things you need to do the next day.

But writing a "to do" list before bed will help to empty your mind of all the worries it's focusing on, and ensures you won't have forgetten them by the following morning.

"I know it's going back to basics, but if you are still worried and thinking 'I've got this to do in the morning', writing it down is really good at de-cluttering the mind," said Lisa. "When you are in bed those thoughts just keep running through your head because you don't want to forget them.

"But that is when the anxiety comes in and stops you sleeping.

"So what we suggest to people is to have a small notepad and pen in their bedside draw and as soon as you think of something write it down.

"It is one of the tricks I use but writing it down means I can forget about it while I go to sleep."

2. Eat cheese

Forget what you have heard – you CAN eat dairy before bed.

In fact, the idea that eating a hunk of cheddar before bed gives you nightmares is nothing more than a myth, said Lisa.

She added: "Actually cheese is a really good snack to have before bed.

"The calcium in it is really good for inducing sleep.

"Dairy contains something called trytophan, which is like a sleep-inducing nutrient.

"It is effective in stress reduction and stabilises nerve fibres in the brain.

"It is like a calming food."

3. Set your bedroom up right

You may think falling asleep is all about making sure the body is relaxed.

But if your bedroom isn't tidy, or the window is letting in too much light, then it can really impact how well you sleep.

"[The bedroom] needs to be cool, about 16-18C," said Lisa.

"It should be dark, so use thick curtains or blackout curtains, because even just a whiff of light can wake us up and make us feel alert.

"Keep it quiet and also keep it tidy.

"It sounds silly but a lot of people use the bedroom as a dumping ground, but that doesn't induce a soothing environment.

"A tidy room makes for a tidy mind."

4. Try the '4-7-8' breathing technique

You must be thinking "how can anyone forget to breathe?".

But focusing on HOW you're breathing is a really helpful way to relax before hitting the hay.

Lisa suggests trying the "4-7-8" breathing technique.

This involves breathing in for four seconds, holding it for seven, then exhaling for eight seconds making a "whooshing" sound.

Lisa said: "It is a process of making yourself unwind properly, it's like clearing head space.

"By making the whooshing sound is kind of like exhaling all the pressures and stresses of the day.

"It is something everyone can practice, it is not something that is difficult to do.

"A lot of people suffer with poor sleep because of stress so this is a really nice technique people can use."

5. Switch off

We've heard this one countless times before, but it's important: switch off your phone, tablet, laptop, TV – every electronic device you might be using at least an hour before bed.

This allows your body to wind down without any bright lights stimulating your brain.

Lisa said: "It will benefit your sleep but it will also benefit your mind as well. Don't forget the TV is part of that.

"A lot of people think that when we say switch of your gadgets they shouldn't be using their mobile phone or their X-box but it also works with the TV.

"It's the bright light that comes from it that not only stimulates the brain but it also stimulates your melatonin levels, which stops you feeling sleepy."

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle.

6. Avoid alcohol and coffee

We've all heard this one before, but it's really important if you want a good night's rest.

So if you're having a few drinks with friends, or fancy an evening cup of coffee, make sure you have your last one two hours before bed.

This should give your body enough time to process the alcohol and caffeine before you go to sleep.

"Our latest bedtime report in March found more and more people use alcohol as a way of getting to sleep," said Lisa.

"While it does help you get to sleep initially – because it is a relaxant – it tends to wake you  in the night because you stir feeling dehydrated or you need to go to the loo more.

"So it has an adverse effect on the further night time sleep you may have. The same thing happens with caffeine."

7. Be mindful

This is similar to breathing techniques, but is more about focusing on your body as a whole.

Some techniques including sitting with your feet flat on the floor and your palms on your thighs, closing your eyes and breathing deeply while focusing on relaxing all of your muscles.

It's supposed to help you bring your mind into the here and now, rather than letting it focus on things that might be stressing you out.

Lisa said: "Some of the top ways to relax before bed are meditation and mindfulness.

"They are really good at making you de-stress. It is very focused on your breathing and the air flowing in and out of you.

"It can be done while you're in bed, it doesn't have to be done in the living room before bed.

"If you find yourself struggling to get to sleep or you wake up in the middle of the night and you are panicking about getting back to sleep these are small exercises you can do."

8. Find your scent of sleep

For some people a certain smell can help them relax.

So if you have a favourite smell that helps you unwind or feel calm then try adding it to your bedtime routine.

It could be in a soap, an essential oil or a candle.

Lisa said: "There is an element of placebo with these things, but certain smells do affect your mood and do help you to feel more calm.

"Smells like lavender and geranium are naturally calming.

"If they help you sleep then there is nothing wrong with using them."

9. Avoid clocks

As hard as it might be, don't check the time.

Especially if you wake up during the night.

"If you have a clock in your bedroom and you need it for an alarm try and cover it with a t-shirt or something," said Lisa.

"What we find is people wake in the night and tend to search out what time it is.

"But that tends to start an anxiety process.

"If someone wakes at three o'clock they look at the time and think 'gosh I've got to get up in three hours' and think they have to get back to sleep.

"But the mind starts to go into overdrive about it.

"And if they didn't look at their clock in the first place that anxiety wouldn't settle in."

"And trying to do the same things every night does signal to the body that it should feel sleepy now."

10. Stick to a routine

Having a routine is not just about making sure you get everything done before bed.

It also helps set your body clock so you feel tired around the same time every night, which helps you get a better rest.

Lisa explained: "Keeping regular hours and a routine is really important.

"You've got a grace period of about an hour either side of when you normally go to sleep.

"But you will find that if you keep those hours as much as possible then your body actually becomes programmed to it and it helps you to sleep better.

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