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How to improve your sleep

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 16:20 UK time, Friday, 26 February 2010

Dr Jonathan Bird is a sleep doctor - a consultant neuropsychiatrist at the Burden Sleep Clinic at Bristol's Frenchay Hospital who has spent the past 25 years investigating people's sleep habits.


dr_bird.jpgMany people suffer from sleep-related problems, varying from not being able to sleep at night to not being able to keep awake during the day. Some sleep walk, some sleep talk and others suffer from respiratory obstructions which can cause them to snore or even stop breathing for short periods while they are sleeping.

The residents of Portland Street, Abertillery, who are taking part in X-Ray's One Street, One Goal project to improve their health, are no different, so Dr Bird has been brought in to give advice.

"A good night's sleep is really important to our overall health," he says.

"Lack of sleep can, in the short term, have a significant impact on our brains and over a longer period has been linked to depression, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. And some experts believe it can accelerate ageing."

Here are some of Dr Bird's tips for improving the quality of your sleep:

  • Give sleep the priority it deserves. Allow yourself enough time to sleep and to wind down before you try. And when you are trying to go to sleep, that's exactly what you must be doing - not watching the telly. Make sure your bedroom is not too hot or too cold.
  • If you wake up during the night use the 15-minute rule. If you are still awake after 15 minutes then get up and do something quiet for a short while in another place, rather than lying in bed worrying about not being able to sleep.
  • Avoid drinking coffee after mid-to-late afternoon. And don't imagine that a few stiff drinks will help you sleep. Alcohol is very disruptive to sleep patterns. It might help you to nod off but it will wake you up again.
  • Don't take too much exercise late at night - it's best done during the day.
  • Children really shouldn't play computer games or stare at a computer screen for too long immediately before bedtime. Sleep is all about getting into a good habit before you go to bed.
  • If your sleep partner says you snore, and you are quite overweight then losing weight may help. If they tell you that you tend to stop breathing for short periods during the night, then you may suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) and might need to consult a doctor. (OSA is defined as "the cessation of airflow during sleep preventing air from entering the lungs caused by an obstruction.")

Do you have any tips for sleeping better? Let us know below.


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