SLEEP is critical, not only to our basic survival but to our overall health and wellbeing. An ongoing lack of sleep will lead to short and long-term health problems. The best defence is to find a sleep solution that works for you.

Dr Erik St Louis, co-director of the Mayo Centre for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, New York, in the United States, said that getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night is an important factor for a healthy body and mind.

“Research shows that the brain needs enough sleep to wash away toxins that accumulate while we are awake – toxins that can potentially damage older brains.”

Good quality sleep contributes to aging well – physically and mentally. Good sleep during youth and middle age reduces the risk of obesity and hypertension.

It also protects against age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Regular sleep has even been attributed to fewer signs of aging in facial skin and better tissue tone – the idea of beauty sleep is not a myt.!

Sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is a routine people can adopt to improve their sleep quality. It should be adapted to the needs of the individual but here are some basics.

- Have a fixed bedtime and waking time.

- Keep your daytime naps to 45 minutes or fewer.

- Avoid alcohol and smoking at least four hours before bed.

- Avoid caffeine –even in tea and cold drinks – six hours before bed.

- Avoid heavy, spicy and sugary foods four hours before bed.

- Use a quality mattress and pillow.

- Keep the room ventilated and at a comfortable temperature.

- Block out all distracting noise and as much light as possible.

Sleep needs a quality mattress. Cheap mattresses cost less but you will pay the difference in the sleep you lose.