Many people have a problem with sleep. If you are sleeping less than seven to eight hours then you are heading for a number of health-related problems.

Research by the University of Chicago indicates that sleeping less than six-and-a-half hours will disrupt insulin receptor sensitivity, which increases the risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

If that's not bad enough, lack of sleep can severely disrupt the endocrine system, increase levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol, and decrease levels of the Growth Hormone (GH). Decreased levels of GH increases fat storage and decreases the utilisation of fats for energy (lipolysis).

If, like most people, your lack of sleep is due to factors not of your making, there are some things you can do to improve your sleep quality.

Avoid snacking before bedtime. Particularly avoid grains and sugars.

Sleep in complete darkness.

Avoid watching TV right before getting to bed.

Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Take a hot bath or shower before getting to bed.

Put your work away at least an hour or two before getting to bed.

(The writer is a CSCS (NSCA), C.H.E.K. and expert trainer)

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