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Give this article a miss and go for a good long snooze instead

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 15, 2013

The purpose of World Sleep Day is to highlight the need for young and old to get a good night's sleep

Comments (0) Throughout the year there are now specific days dedicated to celebrating everything from potatoes to polar bears. Simon Parker pulls up the duvet to mark World Sleep Day.

Today's turning out to be a real yawn... and it's still only 10 o'clock. Another seven hours sitting here, tapping out this turgid article. I should give up now, if I were you, because it's not going to get much better and there's another 800 words to go.

Why not have a little lie down. Tell you what, I think I'll join you. You take the sofa and I'll doze off in the armchair. Ahh! That's better, isn't it. A good, long zzz...

Hang on! Do you know what day it is? And don't say Friday. Today is World Sleep Day, an annual event dedicated to the benefits of snoozing. Probably pioneered by cats – who spend two-thirds of their lives unconscious – World Sleep Day is intended to be a celebration of sloth and an opportunity to discuss important issues related to how a lack of it can affect health, learning, mood and driving. Organised by a snappily-named group called the World Sleep Day Committee of the World Association of Sleep Medicine – or WASM – it aims to lessen the burden of sleep problems on society through better prevention and management of sleep disorders.

Humans, says WASM, need approximately eight hours of sleep in every 24. And, contrary to the popular belief that teenagers are lazy, the group says young people, whose minds and bodies are developing, need more sleep than children and adults, while the elderly tend to require less.

The theme for World Sleep Day 2013 is "good sleep for healthy aging". Research shows that proper rest is as vital to health as good nutrition and regular activity. Oh, but if only it were that simple, you say. Many of us dream of going to bed at 10pm and sleeping soundly until 6am – but the reality is that we lie awake in the wee small hours, trying unsuccessfully to get off again.

Clinical hypnotherapist Pete Mulford, who practises at Lostwithiel Complementary Clinic, specialises in helping people to get a good night's sleep. He said problems are often triggered by anxiety, depression and stress.

"Some people develop a belief that they can't sleep or can't get back to sleep and therefore will never sleep properly again and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," he said. "If you go to bed thinking you will not sleep, the chances are you will not sleep. So whether I am treating people with acute problems or chronic problems, I introduce them to a range of techniques to relax and create positive visualisations. Crucially, I get them to cast doubt over their belief that they can't sleep."

Fellow sleep expert Sara Kirkham, of Cornwall Therapy Partnership, recently published the self- help guide, Beat Insomnia Quickly. A nutritional therapist, Sara said: "Usually insomnia is presented as a symptom alongside the main issue people come to see me about. Naturally, a lack of sleep affects how well you function throughout the day and can cause sleepiness and irritability. But an inability to sleep is often transient, so the most important thing is to try to discover the cause."

To mark World Sleep Day, WASM has drawn up 10 Commandments. Thou shalt:

1. Fix a bedtime and a waking time.

2. Not exceed 45 minutes of napping in a day.

3. Avoid excessive alcohol four hours before bedtime and not smoke.

4. Avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime.

5. Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods four hours before bedtime.

6. Exercise regularly, but not just before bed.

7. Use comfortable bedding.

8. Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping and keep the room well ventilated.

9. Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.

10.Reserve the bed for sleep and sex – and not use the bedroom as an office, workroom or recreation room.

Professor Antonio Culebras, an expert in sleep patterns, believes that because we spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping, it is not only wise but essential to consider its effect on health.

"Lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, has a significant negative impact on health," he said. "It is associated with obesity, diabetes, weakened immune systems and even some cancers, as well as many psychological conditions. World Sleep Day is a worldwide wake-up call. We want more people to be aware of the enormous importance of sleep to our health."

But perhaps the last word should go to another sleep expert.

"Boing!" said Zebedee. "Time for bed..."

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