With sleep problems on the rise, more and more of us are struggling to nod off, or waking in the middle of the night and staring at the ceiling for hours until morning.

In a bid to help people in their quest for a restful slumber, a US sleep expert and clinical nutritionist, Shawn Stevenson, has penned a book of practical steps to improve sleep quality.

Titled Sleep Smarter, the book outlines the impact a lack of sleep can have on numerous aspects of the body, including weight, mental ability, and heart health.

Stevenson, who also has a popular internet podcast, the Model Health Show, told the Daily Mail that sleep is the key to a well-functioning body.


"Unless you give your body the right amount of sleep, you will never have the body and life you want to have."

Here are his top 10 sleep tips:

Put your desk next to a window

According to Stevenson, a great night's sleep actually begins in the morning.

The amount of sunlight you get during the day has a major impact on your circadian system - a 'body clock' that controls a range of fuctions and processes.

Sunlight exposure signals to your hypothalamus (a brain area that is the master gland of your hormonal system) and all corresponding organs and glands to 'wake up'.

If we don't get light exposure at the right time, it can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that is secreted at night, to improve sleep quality.

Stevenson says getting more sunlight exposure during the day, and less at night, will greatly improve your sleep.

Studies have found direct sunlight outdoors for at least half an hour is the most effective, and the body clock is most responsive to sunlight between 6am and 8.30am.

Set a 'coffee curfew'

Coffee could be affecting you in ways you don't even realise.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2013 found that participants given caffeine at different times (immediately before bed, or three or six hours before bed) all showed significant measurable disruptions in their sleep.

Although the participants lost an hour's sleep - as recorded by a sleep monitor at home - they didn't actually notice any difference to their sleep, as shown by their entries in a sleep journal.

In some cases, coffee can help to manage your body's systems, by stimulating the production of cortisol, which can be useful early in the morning.

However, to ensure coffee doesn't impact on sleep, it's best to drink it no later than 2pm, so the body has enough time to process and remove the caffeine before bedtime.

Experts say coffee could be having more of an impact on your body than you may think.Photo / Getty
Experts say coffee could be having more of an impact on your body than you may think.Photo / Getty

Beware a 'second wind' after 10pm

Put simply, to get the best quality of sleep, you need to be in bed by 10pm.

This is because at about 10pm, your body ramps up the melatonin levels, in a bid to rev the metabolism to prepare for all the process that need to take place while you're asleep - all the strengthening, repairing, and rejevenating that goes on while you're out like a light.

However, if you're up past 10pm, this metabolic boost can increase your energy and produce a 'second wind'. This can make it even harder to get to sleep.

Break your screen habit

Cutting out screen time is the number one thing you can do to immediately boost your sleep quality.

Using electronic devices increases levels of dopamine, a powerful chemical that drives us towards feelings of gratification. It also keeps us awake and alert.

Experts recommend turning off all screens 90 minutes before bedtime to allow dopamine, melatonin and cortisol levels to normalise.

Go to bed naked

When it's time to rest, there is an automatic drop in your core body temperature to help initiate sleep.

If the temperature in your environment stays too high, it can hard to reach the ideal state for restful sleep.

Research has shown the insomniacs tend to have a significantly warmer body temperature than normal right before bed, though exactly why is unclear.

Going to bed nude can help to regulate body temperature to the perfect level for sleeping, and the temperature in your bedroom should be 16c to 20c, to help you snooze easier.

Get up early

Even if you're a 'night owl', try to make small, simple steps to becoming more of a morning person - your body will love you for it.

Start making your wake-up time 15 minutes earlier than normal, and gradually increase this as you adjust.

By becoming a morning person you'll be working more with your body, rather than against it - humans are designed to be up during the day and sleeping at night.

Ditch your pillow

While some believe sleeping on a pillow helps to align the spine correctly, this is not the case if you sleep under a stack of them.

Larger pillows will misalign the natural curve of your spine, potentially causing neck pain, back pain, and headaches.

If you pefer to sleep on your stomach, ditch the pillow completely, as it can hyper-extend the neck. Instead, place a small firm pillow under your belly and hips to reduce the stress on your back and neck.

Exercise, but not late in the evening

Regular exercise can aid in your quest for a great night's sleep, but working out too late significantly increases your core body temperature, and it can take at least four to six hours for it to come back down to the optimal temperature for sleep.

House plants help to improve air quality, which can promote a more restful slumber. Photo / Getty
House plants help to improve air quality, which can promote a more restful slumber. Photo / Getty

Invest in some house plants

Not only dso they help to promote a more serene, relaxing environment, they also improve air quality in a room.

House plants absorb carbon dioxide and relase oxygen, which can improve your chances of a restful sleep.