The secret to a great night's sleep

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Ask Dr Nerina

A physiologist, sleep therapist, author and consultant for more than 20 years, our resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan knows a thing or two about the secret to a great night's sleep.

We recruited Dr Nerina as our sleep expert to help even more people get a great night's sleep by sharing with you her practical and easy-to-follow lifestyle advice. You'll be able to adopt her better sleep tips very easily and be well on your way to improvements. 

If you want to ask Dr Nerina a question about your own sleep habits, you've come to the right place! Dr Nerina will try to reply to as many questions as possible but please be patient. In the meantime, you can explore the sleep advice throughout our Sleep Matters section. If you have been experiencing serious sleep issues for a prolonged amount of time please consult your doctor.





Ask Dr Nerina a question

How do I cope with jet lag?

Jet lag is when the body's inner circadian timer and sleep/ wake cycle is disrupted by crossing timezones. I find that meditation can help to minimise my jet lag: try practising some simple meditation techniques for 10-20 minutes on takeoff and again for 10-20 mins as the plane prepares to land. Adjusting your sleep pattern a few days in advance can also help.

How do I get my young children to bed before 9pm, especially in hot weather?

I have real trouble with the snooze button! How do I stop pressing it and wake up straight away?

Waking up refreshed and ready for the day ahead really is about following all of my advice throughout the day. Make sure you eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up, stay hydrated, exercise regularly and minimise stimulants. You can see my protocol to better habits as part of my Better Sleep Tips.

How can I avoid skipping breakfast? I just don't feel hungry on a morning!

Many people are so used to skipping breakfast that the thought of eating so soon after waking is very unappetising. My advice is always to start small with a banana, smoothie or a slice of toast. After a few weeks, you'll be able to stomach more food and notice a huge difference.

I grind my teeth at night: why do I do this and how do I stop?

Regular teeth grinding is often linked to stress and anxiety. If your job is public-facing and you have to smile a lot throughout the day it can lead to a build up of tension in the jaw. Try to release the tension in your jaw before you go to bed. One of my favourite ways to do this is with the 'lion posture' exercise. Get comfortable by sitting, standing or kneeling. Loosen your jaw by gripping your chin with your finger and thumb and then 'waggling' your jaw. Try letting some sound through at the same time. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale forcefully through your mouth. Repeat a number of times.

I’m pregnant and can’t get comfortable in bed: what should I do?

In summary, then...


The mind is an incredibly powerful thing, and there's no greater example than the subconscious. Sometimes, our mind can work against us in such a way that manifests as night terrors and sleep walking. Practical tips to assist in relieving these phenomena include avoiding technology prior to bedtime and meditation techniques

Sleep Quality

If you suffer from broken sleep and wake up feeling anything but refreshed, it's time to look at how you can make tweaks to your daytime routine, which translate into a deeper, better quality sleep.  Your quick wins here are: a decent breakfast within 30 minutes of waking, an effort to moderate caffeine consumption, some exercise and a commitment to take a break from work during the day.

Getting off to sleep - and staying asleep

When getting off to sleep troubles you, it's time to look at your bedtime routine.  Having a bath with relaxing essential oils is a fantastic way to facilitate some shut eye. Crucially, removing yourself from technology 60 to 90 minutes prior to bedtime will quickly send you into a deep and restful sleep. It's likely that you'll wake during the night: the trick is to avoid looking at the clock, to banish any anxiety about how soon you'll need to be awake for the morning. Getting out of this habit is a surprisingly effective way to fall back to sleep swiftly.

Sleeping too much

Seeping too much is called hypersomnia and is actually counterproductive, leading to daytime lethargy, inactivity, and a lack of motivation, not to mention mood swings and cognitive problems.  Remember that being well rested encompasses nutrition and strengthening good personal relationships, along with a sensible amount of sleep. Always aim to go to bed with something to look forward to for the next day, as a way to avoid sleeping in too long the following morning.

For greater detail, see my Better Sleep Tips. I'm always interested to hear what's working for you, so get in touch on Facebook and Twitter using #MySleepSecret.