The phone on my pillow says it is 3am. I have no new emails. No new texts. I lie on my back, desperate to nod back to sleep, but instead panicked thoughts begin to ping around my mind.
By 5am I am still lying awake. I have resisted the temptation to wander to the fridge or the bathroom - an admission of defeat - but my shoulders ache, my eyeballs itch and my stomach appears to be tumble-drying razor wire.
Moments later, fingers of sunlight creep through the shutters and, worse, the birds begin their morning sing-a-long.
When my alarm finally trumpets at 6.30am, I retreat beneath the duvet and vent a wounded hiss.
Welcome to my average morning. For the past eight months, I have been struggling to have a full night's sleep.
I have no problems with the beginning part. Ten minutes into the nightly news show and I usually pass out. But almost without fail, my demons materialise between three and four in the morning.
I am single. I have a double bed. I have no squealing children, only a dog who stays with me at weekends. So why am I suffering from insomnia?
And it's not just me. About 25 per cent of Britons suffer some form of sleeplessness. A recent survey that focused on professionals aged 18 to 60 discovered that on average 46 per cent were getting only five to six hours per night when we should all be aiming for at least seven to eight.
My insomnia kicked in some time after the New Year. I had a particularly stressful Sunday at work writing a newspaper column and felt strung out and fidgety. I wasn't happy with what I'd written and kept waking in the middle of the night.
Since then, I've woken up at 3am as often as four times a week and found getting back to sleep a struggle. I've tried lavender oil, camomile tea and hot milky drinks.
I even tried boiling up a revolting potion recommended by the local hippy health shop that included valerian root, a herbal remedy for anxiety.
But I refuse to take prescription drugs - I've had enough trouble weaning myself off cigarettes and Haribo sweets in the past -and before you ask, I will never, ever own a machine that emits whale noises.
By the time my editor suggests I meet Dr Guy Meadows, one of Britain's leading sleep physiologists, I am desperate.
Dr Meadows is the founder of London's Sleep School and clinical director of Sleep To Perform, a course aimed at helping people excel in stressful jobs by improving their shut-eye.
He is so well-regarded that a long list of corporate giants including Unilever and Price Waterhouse Cooper regularly send him their frazzled employees in a bid to ensure a more efficient workforce.
'We work more, and sleep less'
"For the first time in history, we work longer than we sleep," says Dr Meadows. "While we are working later, we get home and still want some sort of social time.
"So we're up longer, watching a box set, even though we have to get up at the same time. That means less sleep - the most powerful performance enhancer in the world."
Indeed. Last week, a study revealed that people getting less than six hours each night were more susceptible to coughs and colds.
When we're sleep deprived, we go into immuno-suppression, making us less able to fight off illnesses.
Also at risk are our waistlines. The celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, 40, recently blamed all those spare tyres he's been carrying around on a poor sleep regimen - he once survived on three-and-a-half hours a night. Now he goes to bed no later than 10pm.
Can not sleeping make you fat? "Very much so," says Meadows.
"There are two hormones called leptin and ghrelin that regulate our appetite. Leptin is responsible for making us feel full; ghrelin is responsible for our appetite.
"And when we are sleep-deprived, they get disturbed - our leptin levels decrease and ghrelin levels increase."
Besides running courses, Meadows also works one-to-one with chronic insomniacs. He puts me in touch with Valerie Etemadi, 59, a market researcher based in Leatherhead, Surrey.
After a particularly stressful week last summer, Valerie started having the odd bad night's sleep. Then it became the norm. She spent six months having no sleep at all at least three nights a week.
"Not being able to sleep came out of the blue. I hadn't had a problem before, but there had been a few changes in my life," she tells me.
"My business was going through a slump and that was worrying. I have an ageing mother who I was concerned about and I wasn't handling the stress."
"On the nights when I couldn't sleep, my mind would be racing with thoughts and anxiety: why can't I sleep, how will I cope tomorrow if I don't sleep, what happens if . . . and so on.
"Even the slightest concern became magnified in the middle of the night. I'd get completely wound up with anxiety. The more I tried to analyse why I was like this or force myself to sleep, the more stressed I became."
Like me, Valerie tried just about every remedy going. "I tried meditating. I read somewhere that if you ate carbohydrates before bed, that helped. I tried drinking a glass of wine. None of those did anything.
"I spoke to my doctor who told me not to worry about it, just to get up and watch TV, which wasn't very helpful.
"Finally I went to one of Dr Meadows' workshops and it had a huge impact. I learned to accept the anxiety I was suffering. The way Dr Meadows described it was to imagine a room where all your worries are and just embrace them."
Sleep strategies for transient insomniacs
Dr Meadows explains: "When faced with a whole bunch of unhelpful thoughts, you can get caught up in them, letting them affect the way you behave. Or you can just embrace them, accept their presence by giving them playful names."
By befriending them, it seems, you loosen the hold they have over you.
"I still have periods of insomnia," says Valerie. "But I've learned not to fight it - I just say to myself: it doesn't matter if I don't sleep, I will cope."
But can it work for me? Unlike chronic insomniacs like Valerie, whose problems with poor sleeping snowball to the point they fear sleep, he says I am suffering from "transient insomnia" triggered by stressful experiences we have in the daytime.
The key to overcoming the insomnia is to simply remove these external stressors. "What sort of thing worries you when you wake up at night?" asks Dr Meadows.
My recurring anxiety, I tell him, is making a howler when writing an article, only to realise my mistake in the middle of the night when it's too late. "All perfectly normal," he chuckles. "We have round 50,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day, 70 per cent of which are negative.
"I'm a huge fan of negative thinking because of its evolutionary importance. We wouldn't be here today if it we didn't worry about everything that could have eaten us. The issue is how much we buy into it."
He suggests kicking off with a basic exercise called Thought Defusion, which involves learning to observe your thoughts and see them as products of your busy mind, rather than "buying" into them. One idea he suggests is to give each worry a nickname: my writing worry would be "The Howler" for example.
"We can't help these thoughts coming in,' he says. 'They only become problematic when they start to consume us.
"By giving them names, you speed up the process of defusion, so when the unpleasant thoughts crop up, you can just acknowledge them - oh, there's The Howler again - and then go back to what you are doing."
Another thing that keeps me awake is that awful sense, some nights, of "what's the point of it all?"
For this, he recommends something called the Value Focus. He suggests making a mental list on the way home from work, noting three things I've managed to achieve that day, however small. Then another three things I should plan to do that evening when I get home.
It could be as simple as reading 20 pages of a book or phoning a relative. The vital thing is that they should be tasks that don't correlate with work. By focusing on things of value to you, the brain relaxes, boosting levels of serotonin (the happy hormone), which is vital for getting quality sleep.
What to avoid for a decent night's sleep
On a more practical level, there are some basic no-nos that he says we must all adhere to. Tempting as it might be some evenings, pouring yourself a bottle of Vino Collapso will do you no good whatsoever.
"Alcohol is a sedative and a stimulant," says Dr Meadows. "So while many people use it to fall asleep as it acts on some of the brain chemicals responsible for helping us sleep, unfortunately it is also metabolised so quickly that it can leave the body craving more.
"When we drink alcohol close to bedtime, we are more likely to wake up in the early hours, leaving us less than refreshed and unable to cope in the daytime."
As a rule of thumb, it takes an hour to process one unit of alcohol, so if you have a glass of wine at 7pm, you'll be fine by 10pm. Ideally, you should avoid going to bed with unmetabolised alcohol in your body.
Also, smartphones and tablet devices might be great for browsing in front of the telly, but they're lousy preparation for bed. LCD screens emit "blue light", which is the same sort of light as sunlight, thus playing havoc with our sleep hormones.
"Checking your Facebook last thing at night is like shining a miniature sun into your eyes," says Meadows.
"Our body clock gets confused and starts thinking it's daytime again. Your body starts inhibiting the sleep hormone melatonin and starts releasing the waking hormone, cortisol."
Yet I have to admit my first evening after meeting Dr Meadows was a bit of a shocker. I'd been in a flap preparing to interview him, so was feeling edgy.
Rather than focus on the exercises he'd given me, I spent my evening rat-a-tat-tatting our conversation on the keyboard, my battered iPad's sleep-sucking "blue light" scorching my retinas.
I also afforded myself a midweek snifter of gin. I could almost picture the pained expression on his face as I rode roughshod over everything he'd told me.
I suffered another restless night and spent the next day walking around like an extra from Night Of The Living Dead.
The next week, I decided to properly give it go. It wasn't easy - I find change of routine tricky. I set all my little worries daft nicknames. There's the one about making an error at work (The Howler); the fear of having to put my dog to sleep (The Lily) and countless doubts about whether I'm going to be able to finish an article (The Can I Cope?). I feel absurd doing it, but I see the logic.
As Dr Meadows pointed out, these thoughts are peskily intrusive. Some crop up half a dozen times in one morning. But categorising them by name cuts them down to size - they become familiar, even boring, and so less intimidating.
I also set about composing my list of three things I'd done that day. Writing them down, I realised I had achieved more than I thought.
That evening, I resolved to call my brother and made an overdue visit to the recycling dump. I felt I was tying up all my loose ends - a bit like a having a good wardrobe clear-out.
Does it work?
On both nights I still woke up at 3am. My phone was on the pillow, but I had turned it over so its screen was facing down, and I resolved not to check it, even to tell the time.
Best of all, the worries that normally nag me in the small hours didn't kick in and I was soon back to sleep. I might be over optimistic, but remarkably I got a good seven hours both nights.
I feel happier, clearer and more mentally fit than before. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get some more shut-eye...
- Daily Mail