What is sleep? Sleep is a recurring state of relaxation that is characterized by an altered state of consciousness, inhibited sensory activity, muscular inhibition, and severely reduced interaction with outside entities. This state alternates between REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, during which dreams occur, and non-REM sleep. While in REM sleep the mind dreams and the body experiences a state of near paralysis that keeps a person from physically acting on dream stimulus (this is called sleep paralysis). Sleep itself is a state in which the body builds up and restores the immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems. Source: alleydog.com.Sleep plays a very important role in many aspects of daily life. Without it we become irritable, have an increased appetite, higher stress levels, are susceptible to illness and much more. All of which, over time, can have a major impact on physical health, mental health and relationships. The benefits are widely known and very well studied over many years, but here are some practical tips to help improve the quality of your sleep.Firstly reduce your screen usage for at least an hour before going to bed. The screens we so regularly use; phones, tablets, laptops, tv’s all emit blue light, which suppresses melatonin production in the brain. Melatonin is the hormone partly responsible for maintaining the sleep/wake cycle.The next practical tip is to leave your phone outside your bedroom. .It is well reported that people should be sleeping between 7-9 hours per night. However it’s just as important that sleep and wake times are consistent across the whole week, including the weekend. Caffeine is a mainstay in most people’s morning ritual but too much caffeine later in the day can have a big impact on the quality of sleep.This tip follows on from number one, find yourself a night time routine.The last tip is; upon waking in the morning time, get as much light as possible. This is also linked back to the sleep/wake cycle mentioned earlier. Ideally you go outside to get some natural light but that is very hard during the winter months. The next best thing would be to turn on all the lights in the house to get as much light as you can until early afternoon.Improve your sleep, improve your health.If you’re interested in learning more about sleep, I highly recommend the book; Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.I will be running a FREE Active Start Challenge in January. To join the waiting list, scan the QR code in the image.