The fast pace of modern life is playing havoc with our sleeping patterns. We’re working longer hours than ever before and trying to cram too much into our small amount of free time. It’s hardly surprising that sleep problems are on the increase, but it may be that you're not helping yourself.

Lack of sleep affects how you perform at work and makes you more likely to have accidents. It can affect your weight and your immune system put you at higher risk of diabetes and reduce your sex drive.

It might take a radical change of lifestyle to get a good night’s sleep every night, but you can improve the quality of your sleep. The key is to get to bedtime feeling relaxed and, with that in mind, here are some things you should avoid:


A lot of people need their caffeine fix to get them through the day. By stimulating the brain, it helps you stay alert and avoid sleepiness. This is fine when you want to avoid dozing off during your boss’s presentation, but not so good when you need to get to sleep.

It can take 6-8 hours for the stimulating effects of caffeine to reduce by half. If you grab a coffee on the way home from work, it will still be affecting you at bedtime. Don’t forget, tea, chocolate and energy drinks also contain caffeine.

2. Alcohol

A drink at the end of the day can be a great way to unwind, especially if it includes some social interaction. But drinking alcohol nearer to bedtime can have a significant impact on your quality of sleep and your body’s repair systems.

We often associate excessive drinking with falling asleep. What we don’t always realise is how it can disrupt our sleep. From a reduction in REM sleep to more trips to the loo and increased snoring, alcohol interrupts your natural sleep patterns.

 3. Smoking

There are all sorts of reasons to give up smoking but, if none have convinced you so far, think about how it affects your sleep. Like caffeine and alcohol, nicotine is a stimulant. You might think a cigarette before bedtime helps you relax, but it will disrupt your sleep patterns.

4. Blue Light

If you’re one of the many people, who can’t resist the lure of phones, tablets and laptops at bedtime you need to stop. The blue light emitted from electronic devices acts just like opening the curtains when you get up in the morning. Your brain thinks it’s daytime and gets to work accordingly. Swap the tablet for a good book or listen to some relaxing music. 

5. Don’t Just Lie There

If you wake during the night and can’t get back to sleep, don’t lie there worrying. Get up and do something relaxing like reading, listening to calming music or having a bath. Don’t get out the laptop and start planning tomorrow’s meetings!

You might get away with it for a while but, in the long run, getting insufficient sleep will adversely affect your health.