While having lunch with a friend over the weekend, my conversation was briefly interrupted by the howls of a tiny human sitting in a high chair at the table next to us. “Poor thing is knackered!” the mum declared to her companion, “time for her nap” she explained as she lifted the child and headed to the till.

Why is it that we notice how much sleep can affect children, but we seem to lose sight of the importance of sleep for ourselves? A lack of sleep does not just make us slightly grumpy; it can affect our cognitive skills, concentration, perspective, reaction times, mood, and even our weight.

There are plenty of simple things we can do to get a great night's sleep and that starts with a solid night time routine.

Things to avoid:

Mood altering stimulants - stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine can disrupt sleep with caffeine staying in your system for up to four hours!

Alcohol - a nightcap may help you to drift off on occasion but in the long-run it will contribute to broken sleep.

Liquids & snacks - avoid late night snacks and drinks to prevents discomfort within the digestive system during the night. Skipping that midnight snack will stop you running to the bathroom during the night.

Worrying  - write your worries down to get them out of your head and have a restful sleep.

Things to incorporate:

Create a sleep environment - remove any screens or noise from the bedroom and adjust the temperature for a more comfortable sleep.

Soften the lighting - lighting can affect your sleep cycle as well as your mental and emotional functions.

Unwind mentally - read a book, listen to calming music, do a crosswords or sudoku puzzle.

Establish a pattern - try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day to allow your body to adjust to a healthy sleep cycle.

Eat well - foods with Tryptophan such as dairy products or bananas will help you nod off if you wake up during the night and struggle to get back to sleep again.

Don't watch the clock - if you're having trouble sleeping try to give yourself fifteen minutes to doze. If this doesn't work, get up and get out of the room. Read in a chair for a bit or listen to some music until you feel drowsy and then return to your bedroom.

The most important thing to remember with all these tips and tricks is to do what works for you. There's a wide selection of tools to choose from but don't worry if they don't stick. It’s the little things that make a difference to your mental health.