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How many hours of sleep are you getting per night?  7 hours? 5 hours? Very few of us get 8 hours per night and while most of us would agree that we would like a little more, we probably don't think it effects us in a significant way.

It looks like we are pretty wrong. A recent study, reported in The New York Times, has shown that after just two weeks of getting 6 hours sleep per night, participants were as cognitively impaired as those who had been sleep deprived for 24 hours straight. Which means that most of us, are not thinking as clearly as we could be.

Sleep shortages can depend on our life situation; becoming a new parent, just starting a new job, falling in love, can all effect our sleep.  But if our sleep shortage is chronic, there are a few things we can do to help.

  • Make sure you wind down an hour before bed (that means no screens!), have a shower, read a book, listen to calming music, develop a routine that suits you.
  • Empty your bedroom of technology - no flashing lights, dim lights, unexpected beeping noises. You want your bedroom to be as dark as possible.
  • No caffeine before bed - no coffee, no tea, chocolate - and no alcohol.
  • Make sure your room is cool.  Overheating can lead to difficulty falling asleep.
  • Leave your bed for sleeping and sex. No TV.  No Candy Crush.
  • Instead of setting an alarm to wake up, set an alarm to start your wind down routine.
  • Try to wake up at the same time every day.  And keep to a regular bed time.
  • If you're tossing and turning, get up after 30 minutes, get a glass of water and return to bed.
For those of us who struggle with sleep, use the time to simply rest.  Rest the body, rest the mind by focussing on your breath. Telling ourselves to fall asleep now! or checking the clock, only makes us anxious. Some people benefit from sleeping in two halves, with an hour or two gentle activity in the middle. Allowing yourself this time, rather than struggling to make sleep conform to a certain way, may reduce the stress of having to go to sleep.