Sleep is the 'chief nourisher in life's feast'. It heals and restores the body, facilitating growth and playing a major role in maintaining general health and vitality. Sleep also assists mental function - helping everything, from memory storage and retention to enabling new learning and development. It really can make a big difference in how productive and successful you are in life.

Spend more hours in bed!

Set your alarm later. How many times do you hit the snooze button on your alarm in the morning? Many people set their alarm for half an hour before they really intend to get up. Set the alarm for when you need to get up rather than when you should get up and benefit from the extra zzzzz's;

Cool off your love affair with the TV, the arch enemy of sleep. Late night TV programmes, not only keep you out of bed, they can actually keep you awake. If there is a late night programme you really want to see, it's worth taking two minutes to set it to record so you can record it and watch it at a decent hour;

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Have dinner earlier. No one likes going to bed just after they've eaten, but these days many people are not eating until after 8pm - which tends to result in a later bed time. Try to have dinner a little earlier, so it's natural to turn in;

Go out earlier. If you're going out to the movies or dinner or even just playing cards with your neighbours, opt for an earlier start time.

Prepare well for bed time

What happens if you go to bed and just don't feel sleepy? Try these relaxing techniques:

Keep the lights low. Exposure to bright light, especially early in the day, is a natural way to wake up your body - the brightness acts like a wake-up call to remind your body that it's day-time. But at night time, you should keep the lights low, especially in your bedroom, to give your brain the message that it's night, and time to sleep;

Have a warm drink. A cup of relaxing chamomile tea or warm milk is like a soothing balm for the body and mind. Sip and think calm thoughts before bedtime;

Take a warm bath. Try throwing a large handful of Epsom Salts into the bath to soothe away muscle pains. Alternatively, adding a couple of drops of essential oil of lavender to your bath is deeply relaxing;

Slow down. Stressed people walk fast, talk fast, breathe fast, eat fast. Quietly observe your pace, especially in the couple of hours before bed time. Make a conscious effort to slow it down;

Smile. If you're stressed, you're probably furrowing your brow and clenching your teeth without even realising it. Try softening your face into a slight smile and feel your brow, cheeks and chin relax;

Keep a pen and paper handy. When your mind keeps racing with 'gotta do' thoughts, write them down. There will be no need to lie awake worrying about remembering them;

Don't stress about sleep. Volunteers in a sleep study were offered $25 if they could fall asleep quickly. Researchers found it took their subjects twice as long to fall asleep as another group who weren't under the same pressure. If you are still wide awake half an hour after turning out the lights, get up and leave the bedroom. Go somewhere where the lights are low and either listen to soft music or do some light reading until you feel tired.

If sleeplessness becomes a regular problem for you, talk to your doctor. It may be a symptom of something more serious.