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Put those SLEEP THIEVES TO BED

9 pages of the latest health, nutrition and medical advice

Some see a good night’s sleep as the key to good health, others as a luxury that seems forever out of reach. Anita Chaudhuri looks at the best ways to help you go deep

IT WAS ERNEST HEMINGWAY WHO SAID: ‘I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake.’ And it was the Dalai Lama, no less, who described sleep as ‘the best meditation’. The fact that sleep is a glorious, revitalising thing is not in question – it’s the most natural thing in the world, after all. Yet so many of us still struggle to get enough of it.

According to the Great British Sleep Survey, 51.3% of us have trouble sleeping, with women three times more likely than men to struggle with insomnia. And we’re all sleeping for up to two hours less than we did back in the 1960s, according to research conducted by the Universities of Oxford and Harvard. The reasons for this are varied and complex. Gone are the days when we went to bed when it got dark and hit the fields with a hoe at sunrise. Now we’re staying late at the office, coming home and ordering a Mexican takeaway at the tap of an app. Then we scroll through our social media feeds when we should be happily drifting off to the land of nod.

‘Over the past 50 years, people’s sleep duration has declined. We are all getting less than we used to,’ says Dr Katharina Lederle, sleep consultant and author of Sleep Sense: Improve Your Sleep, Improve Your Health (Exisle, £12.99). ‘People are more likely to bring a pressing work project home to finish. Working parents also have to fit chores into the time they have at home. What that usually eats into is downtime, which is so vital in order to prepare for a good night’s sleep.’

WE DON’T DO THE PREP

Many of us think of sleep itself as being all the downtime we need – but it’s not actually enough. ‘Yes, sleep is downtime, in a way, because it restores and rebalances our physical, cognitive and emotional abilities,’ says Katharina. ‘But in order to get to sleep, it’s essential to take downtime where the brain isn’t having to process anything. Just sitting back and not doing anything, without any input, is what we need. If we’re scrolling down our social media feed before bed, we’re occupying our minds with what other people are doing. There’s a big difference between that and processing what you did during your own day, and letting it go.’

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About Healthy Food Guide

Our October issue has everything you need for a good night’s sleep to improve your health and wellbeing. Our nutritionist pinpoints the best foods for zzzz, and sleep experts help you get your mind and body in the right place. Plus there’s a £1,000 bed set to be won! Cooking on a budget? We’ve got easy recipes for students (and emotional advice for parents left behind) and new cheap & cheerful – and healthy – meals from Jamie Oliver. It’s your number one spot for latest health advice, too, with an update on blood pressure.