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Four surprising ways to get a good night’s sleep

Thirty-nine per cent of adults get less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night.

Women are two times more likely to have insomnia than men – this may be due to hormonal changes. And tiredness peaks at 2am and 2pm, according to scientists

Here an expert nutritionist and a sleep psychologist give us some unusual ways to get a better night’s kip…

1. Avoid stress-inducing food

"Food intolerances are a relatively little-known contributor to sleep problems," explains Alexandra.

"When you eat something you are intolerant to, your immune system thinks it’s a foreign invader and reacts by triggering inflammation and the production of stress hormones."

These raised stress hormones lead to increased heart rate and alertness – the last thing you need as you’re trying to drift off.

If you think you have a food intolerance, keep a food diary for a few weeks, and note down how you feel after eating various foods. If you suspect a food might be giving you nasty side effects like bloating, diarrhoea, indigestion, or itchy rashes, cut it out of your diet for a couple of weeks before reintroducing it gradually to see if your symptoms return.

2. How about a bedtime story?

Two thirds of adults say reading before bed helps them to sleep. There’s a good reason for this: according to neuropsychologists, reading reduces stress levels by 68%.

"When our mind is full of the facts and thoughts of the day, stories can help us shift down a gear before bed," says Hope Bastine, psychologist for sleep technology brand Simba. "Entering into a literary world distracts us from daily stresses, releasing the muscular heart tension and lowering the breathing rate."

"Reading fiction helps build the bridge toward creative dreaming,’ says Hope. "In the dreaming part of the sleep cycle, REM, we dream in pictures, not words. So anything that switches on the image centres of our brain is a good way to prepare the mind for deep sleep."

But that thriller may not be the best way to unwind. More than half of Brits feel happy when reading a story from their childhood, so revisiting old classics might be just what you need to nod off.

"Some of our earliest memories feature a comforting voice reading us a bedtime story," says Hope. "Reconnecting with this happy and care-free time can remind us how to be happy when adult life gets overwhelming."

Top 10 children’s books adults want to re-read:

1. The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe

2. The Secret Garden

3. The Railway Children

4. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

5. Animal Farm

6. Treasure Island

7. The Wind In The Willows

8. The Hobbit

9. The Lord Of The Rings

10. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

3. Don’t have that sweet milky drink before bed

Late-night fridge raiders take note: those midnight snacks and bedtime hot chocolates could be impacting on the quality of your sleep.

"Unruly blood sugar levels can lead to waking in the night and feelings of exhaustion in the morning," says Alexandra Falgate, nutritional therapist and naturopath at Health Is Wealth.

"The best way to balance your blood sugar is to reduce refined carbohydrates such as white rice, bread, baked goods, sugary drinks and chocolate throughout the day. Instead eat balanced meals and snacks that contain fibre, protein and healthy fats."

If your blood sugar is high, your kidneys will try and get rid of the sugar through your urine, which means you’re more likely to be visiting the bathroom than getting some shut eye.

4. Take those vitamins

Most of us don’t realise how much of an impact our diets can have on catching those zeds.

"Certain nutrients are needed for dropping off, while others are essential for staying asleep. Magnesium has the ability to relax whichever cell it attaches to," explains Alexandra.

"Anxiety or circling thoughts can keep you awake throughout the night, but magnesium can reduce anxiety and encourage a peaceful night’s sleep. Other vitamins, minerals and amino acids such as zinc, tryptophan, B12, B9 and iron play an integral role in our sleep cycle, too."

You could try taking Neuro Rest supplement from Utmost Me, £15 from Amazon, which is 100% natural and rich in these ingredients. Or up your intake of magnesium-rich foods like avocado, almonds, bananas and figs.

• Hope Bastine is working with Simba’s Snore & Roar events, a series of bedtime story sleepovers designed as an innovative way to fuel our imaginations and sleep better. Visit for more.

• Alexandra Falgate is working with Utmost Me. For more, visit

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