How to fall asleep is a question the majority of us will ask during an unwelcome bout of 3am insomnia at some point in our lives.
You’re right to be frustrated – not enough kip will not only leave you feeling exhausted the next day, but put your health at risk too.
“Sleep is important for your health as it gives your body time to recharge its batteries and repair cells,” said Dr Marilyn Glenville, a nutritionist and author of The Natural Health Bible for Women.
“When you don’t get enough or good quality sleep you can feel irritable, with poor concentration, tired and more vulnerable to infections as your body does not have the strength to fight its own battles.”
Additionally, it could be the reason for greater festive weight gain.
“Research has shown that sleep deprivation is associated with an increase in appetite,” explained Lily Soutter, resident nutritionist for high-tech mattress brand Simba.
“A study by King’s College London found that it causes us to consume 385 calories more per day than those who slept longer.”
But how can you ensure you achieve the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended seven to nine hours for between 26 and 64 years? Try these five unlikely ways.
Recall your favourite place
Forget counting sheep, because picturing your favourite location in the world – whether stunning waterfall or picturesque local park – may be the trick to falling asleep pronto.
A study by Oxford University found that when participants, who suffered from insomnia, imagined a relaxing scene, they fell asleep 20 minutes faster than those told to count sheep or do nothing.
It is thought that recalling your happy place could distract you from thoughts and worries that may be keeping you up.
Have some honey before bed
One of the reasons you jolt awake in the middle of the night could be because you don’t have enough glycogen in your system, according to experts.
You can combat this by taking some honey before bed – it contains natural sugars which boost glycogen stores in the liver.
“To carry out its essential overnight repairs and cell rejuvenation, your body uses energy in the form of glycogen which is stored in the liver,” explained Dr Roger Henderson.
“During the night, these glycogen stores get depleted at a rate of 10g per hour, of which 65 per cent is used by the brain.
“If this energy supply runs out, the liver send stress signals to the brain in the form of the hormone cortisol, alerting it to wake up until sufficient levels are restored.
The sweet, sleep-inducing ingredient can be found alongside Sustamine – a combination of amino acids – and vitamin B6 in the supplement Benenox Overnight Recharge.
Taking vitamin D and magnesium supplements can also help.
Try to stay awake
It might seem counter-intuitive, but research has shown forcing yourself to stay up could remove the sleep anxiety that normally prevents you from nodding off.
A study by the University of Glasgow investigated what would happen when a group of insomniacs were instructed to stay awake in bed.
They discovered they fell asleep much faster than another group who weren’t told to stay awake.
While it is easy to dread the copious amounts of turkey you are likely to consume in the next month, the meat could actually help you recharge over the Christmas break.
The festive staple contains tryptophan, an amino acid, which is thought to help cause drowsiness by producing the neurotransmitter serotonin.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that serotonin caused slow-wave sleep in non-human mammals, and scientists believe it may do the same in us.
Turn down the heating
With the cold snap and snow set to continue through December, don’t be tempted to crank up the heating too much.
Not only could it prove deadly, an overly warm bedroom may prevent you from sleeping right through the night.
Your internal body temperature is linked to your body clock, meaning that if you are too hot you could wake up.
Research by Harvard Medical School discovered that your body heat naturally drops in order to help you drop off, and a study by the University of Pittsburgh revealed that yawning helps your brain get rid of some heat.
Additionally, recent research has suggested that sleeping naked with just your duvet could help your body regulate its temperature better.