With the clocks changing and World Sleep Day this month, here are all the essential tips from the experts on getting enough shut-eye…

Sleep is a superpower. It is essential to our health. It is equally as important as a balanced diet and exercise, and problems with sleep can affect how we feel mentally and physically. But the question is, are we getting enough?

March 17 is World Sleep Day, celebrating the positive benefits of good and healthy sleep.

“When we don’t get enough sleep or our sleep is poor quality, then it can affect our brain function, how we perform and how productive we are,” says Dr Vikki Revell, Ph.D., a senior lecturer in Translational Sleep and Circadian Physiology at the Surrey Sleep Research Centre.

“Other than nutrition, sleep is the most vital foundational layer of wellbeing,” says south-west London based Karina Antram, a registered nutritionist and author of Fix Your Fatigue. “Without adequate sleep, we cannot function, our mental health declines.

“There is scientific research to support that the optimal amount of sleep is 8.4 hours to enhance productivity and performance. If you are consistently getting less than five hours (based on evidence from over 100,000 studies), the number of people who can survive on this amount of sleep or less is zero.”

So, how many people are sleep deprived in the UK? According to, almost one in five people are not getting enough sleep.

Dr Hana Patel, a local GP specialist in sleep and mental health says, “Some studies report that up to a third of adults suffer from insomnia and other sleep-related issues in the UK. While we all know how a poor night’s sleep can affect our mood the next day, make us irritable, and short-tempered, and lead to difficulty concentrating, research has shown that a continual disturbance or lack of sleep can lead to long-term health problems.

“These can be wide-ranging, from causing heart and blood pressure related issues to diabetes and obesity.” But everyone needs a different amount of sleep that suits them and allows them to function the next day.” ”

Adults generally need seven to nine hours, children need nine to 13 hours, and toddlers and babies need 12 -17 hours. This is a guide as some adults can manage and function with six hours of sleep.”

One way to recognise you are not getting enough sleep is if you need an alarm to wake up in the mornings. With the correct amount of sleep, you should be able to wake up on your own at about the right time. “People can struggle with their sleep for various reasons and these may change throughout their life,” says Dr Vikki Revell. “One factor that we know is important to think about is your light environment and to avoid exposure to bright light or using electronic devices emitting blue light a couple of hours before you go to bed as this will make it difficult to fall asleep.”

So how can we try and get quality sleep? “The colder your room, the better your sleep quality and the more deep sleep you get,” says Karina. “One of the best things you can do for your circadian rhythm is to get some early-morning light exposure. Try to get 30 minutes before noon each day. We all have a ‘chronotype’ – a natural inner clock for when you want to be awake and when you want to be asleep. The more you stick to your chronotype and sleep/wake times, the better your sleep quality will be.”

The right amount of sleep can regulate our weight. With less sleep, leptin (our fullness hormone) reduces, and ghrelin (our hunger hormone) increases. Leptin tells our brains when we’re full. Ghrelin indicates to the stomach that it’s empty and needs food. People sleeping four to five hours a night will (on average) eat 200-300 extra calories each day because of disturbances to these key weight regulating hormones.

Adds Karina: “You want to achieve a consistent steady blood sugar throughout the day so avoid eating sugar such as chocolate or sweets late at night, otherwise you will get a big glucose spike. If you want something sweet try a banana and nut butter instead. Bananas are rich in magnesium, tryptophan, vitamin B6, and potassium, which are said to improve sleep. Combining with the protein-rich nut butter lessens the glucose spike.”

“Also, you also want to consider the thermic effect of the dinner you eat,” she says. “Processed food is much harder for the body to break down and digest and does not contain all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to have an optimal night’s sleep. An easy-to-digest meal, ideally homemade, means your body can focus on using its glymphatic system to renew and repair itself at night. Plant-based stews, dahl, black bean chili, baked fish, vegetables, and sweet potato are all good options. Avoid red meat as it takes a long time to digest or eat it much earlier in the day.”

Sleep Tools To Try…
  • Weighted blankets
  • Yoga / Pilates • Mindfulness
  • Calm App
  • Headspace App
  • Sleep Reset App
  • Sleep Cycle App
  • Sunrise Alarm Clock
  • Bed Cooling Systems
  • sleep tracker
  • NHS – Online Sleep Test
  • A Sleep Coach
  • Mattresses should be replaced every six-eight years

Karina’s 10 top tips for a better night’s sleep

  1. A good night’s sleep all starts the morning you wake up. Ideally to maximise sleeping well that evening, you would do the following:
  2. Go for a walk within an hour of waking.
  3. Maintain a consistent sleep/ wake cycle.
  4. Eat protein at breakfast to start the day: it can improve sleep quality and sleep onset. Eggs, yoghurt with nuts and seeds and overnight oats with nut butter are all good options.
  5. Eat the majority of your energetic food intake in the first part of the day.
  6. Stay physically active during daylight hours.
  7. Eat a light dinner as early as possible, when you can.
  8. Relax – with a magnesium salts bath just before bed to wind down.
  9. Download Sleep Cycle app to help regulate your sleeping routine. Listen to Binaural Beats to enhance feelings of relaxation.
  10. You could try magnesium threonate and L-theanine before bed, both of which have a calming effect or try lemon balm or valerian tea.