The massive outpouring of public grief for Dr Michael Mosley has been peppered with heartfelt stories of gratitude from the tens of thousands of people whose lives have been transformed by following his advice.

In tribute to his impact on the nation’s health, the Mail has compiled 160 of his most life-changing tips in a three-part series. Today we put the spotlight on sleep and sex.

Like weight loss, sleep held an enduring fascination for Dr Mosley who was tormented by insomnia for nearly 30 years, ultimately resolving his sleep issues through judicious application of his own methods.

Here are his scientifically-backed tweaks to get you sleeping soundly through the night – and some tried and tested ways to boost your libido.

Dr Michael Mosley, who struggled with insomnia for nearly 30 years, with his wife Clare Bailey

Dr Michael Mosley, who struggled with insomnia for nearly 30 years, with his wife Clare Bailey

No more lie-ins

The single most important change you can make to maximise your chance of getting more deep sleep is to stick to a regular sleep schedule – going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day.

Studies show people with irregular sleep patterns may have a higher risk of dementia and a weekend lie-in will only mess up the body’s natural circadian rhythms. This might not be a problem when you’re young, or if you are lucky enough to sleep well, but if you’re prone to insomnia, this shortfall could be enough to tip you into a run of bad nights.

Go to bed later

If you suffer from insomnia, the time spent in bed awake can be stressful enough to set up a bad pattern of behaviours which puts your brain in stress mode whenever your head hits the pillow.

One of the most effective ways to break this vicious cycle is to spend LESS time in bed. This is called sleep restriction therapy.

The idea is that restricting the amount of time you spend in bed intensifies your urge to sleep, so after a few days of this, when your head does hit the pillow, you drop off quickly into a deep and restorative sleep.

With practice, your brain re-learns to associate being in bed with being asleep, rather than stress about not sleeping.

It’s not easy, but it is powerfully effective. Even the most stubborn cases of insomnia can be shifted – often with the support of a sleep specialist.

If you are prone to waking up multiple times during the night, try going to bed an hour later than normal, but make sure you stick to the same alarm call each morning – weekends included – and no ­napping is allowed.

If, after a week, you are sleeping better, then give yourself an extra 20 minutes in bed.

The mild restriction may be enough to concentrate your sleep ‘muscle’ allowing you to sleep more deeply with fewer interruptions.

Dr Mosley recommended going to bed later and sticking to a regular sleep schedule, meaning no lie-ins at weekends

Dr Mosley recommended going to bed later and sticking to a regular sleep schedule, meaning no lie-ins at weekends

Eat your way to better sleep 

Emerging research shows the trillions of ‘good’ bacteria that live in your gut produce compounds which play an important role in helping you sleep soundly.

  • Shift your diet towards a healthier, more Mediterranean way of eating. Switch to using olive oil, upgrade to wholegrains (such as brown rice, wholegrain pasta, seeded wholegrain bread) and snack on nuts not crisps – all of which are fantastic tips for ­reducing the inflammation that leads to arthritis and other painful conditions that can keep people awake at night.
  • Increase the range and variety of fruit and vegetables in your diet to feed the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut which manufacture serotonin. This ‘feel-good hormone’ improves mood, helps regulate appetite, digestion, sleep and sexual desire. Research shows that people with the most diverse microbiomes have the best quality sleep.
  • Cut back on ultra-processed food (UPFs) to reduce your intake of sugar and additives that often contain emulsifiers your gut microbes do not enjoy. Reducing UPFs will help starve out the ‘bad’ bacteria which can impair sleep quality by creating inflammation, contributing to anxiety, depression, weight gain and sleepless nights.
  • Eat protein (eggs, meat, fish, beans or tofu) with every meal to support the basic functions of the body and improve your chances of a good night’s sleep. Aim for a daily target of 1 to 1.5g of protein per kg of body weight per day.
  • Experiment with probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir which contain live bacteria to enrich your microbiome. Studies show people who eat fermented foods have lower stress levels and sleep better.

Move more to aid deeper slumber

An early morning walk exposes you to bright light. This helps set your circadian rhythm which means you are more likely to feel sleepy at bedtime

Weight or resistance training will help preserve muscle mass and boost your sleep efficiency. One study showed resistance exercises could increase the amount of good-quality sleep by an average of 40 minutes. Studies also show men who are physically active are less likely to need regular night-time trips to the loo.

Exercise is thought to help by reducing body size, improving sleep, decreasing nervous system activity and lowering levels of ­systemic inflammation.

Exercise and eating the right sort of foods help to improve sleep quality and set your circadian rhythm

Exercise and eating the right sort of foods help to improve sleep quality and set your circadian rhythm

Cut back on caffeine after lunch 

The caffeine in coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks perks you up because it binds to sleep-inducing receptors in your brain that would otherwise be occupied by adenosine – the natural hormone that helps you feel sleepy.

So if you struggle with sleep, cut back to two or three cups of coffee a day maximum – and all before lunchtime.

The average half-life of caffeine is around five hours, which means half the caffeine in a 6pm cup of coffee will be still running around your system at 11pm and you could still be feeling the effects at 4am.

Caffeine sensitivity varies according to gender, age, weight, genetics and any medication (the Pill can dramatically slow your liver’s ability to break caffeine down, for instance).

Take naps to boost your mood and wits

Not only can napping boost mood and wellbeing, but large studies have shown a link between regular napping and good heart health. It can improve your thinking skills and strengthen your capacity to learn. But don’t nap if you’re trying sleep restriction.

A 20-minute nap pushes the reset button, increasing alertness and attention, as well as sharpening motor skills. Best time is seven hours after waking.

A 60-minute nap gives you enough time to move into ‘slow-wave’ sleep, which can help to enhance memory.

A 90-minute nap, particularly taken in the morning, gives you access to REM (rapid eye ­movement) sleep which can enhance creativity.

If you are very sleep-deprived but still need to function, try a ­coffee snooze: Drink a cup of strong black coffee, set your alarm for 20 minutes’ time, lie down and sleep. It takes 20 minutes for the caffeine to hit your brain. You should be buzzing as your alarm wakes you.

How to calm an overactive mind

Breathing exercises help to still your busy mind by forcing you to focus on specific counting patterns as you breathe calmly and deeply. Try these:

  • 4-2-4 breathing: Breathe in deeply through your nose to a count of four, hold for two, then exhale for a count of four. Repeat 10 times.
  • Alternate-nostril breathing: Breathe out through your mouth and use your right thumb to close your right nostril, breathe in deeply through your left nostril to a count of four, now switch sides and block your left nostril with your left thumb and breathe out to a count of four. Repeat 10 times.
If you can't sleep, listen to soothing music, a dull podcast or read a book

If you can’t sleep, listen to soothing music, a dull podcast or read a book

Do you really need a new mattress?

The life expectancy of mattresses varies considerably, but watch out for sagging, as this can throw your spine out of alignment and affect the quality of your sleep. A mattress topper might provide sufficient cushioning and support and will be much cheaper than buying a new mattress.

What to do if you wake in the night

Waking in the middle of the night becomes more common as we get older because we sleep less deeply.

  • Resist the urge to check the time (it only creates stress).
  • Try ‘progressive muscle relax­ation’: breathing steadily, first inhale and contract one muscle group (for example make a fist with your right hand) for five seconds, then exhale as you release the tension in that muscle. As you do so, imagine those stressful feelings flowing out of your body. Relax, then progress around your body from your fingers to your toes, contracting and releasing one muscle group at a time. You should be asleep before you reach your toes.
  • If you find your brain is buzzing it is important to realise that at night your filters are down and your thoughts will be less rooted in reality than they might be ­during the day. Try to accept that catastro­phising thoughts (‘I’ll be so tired tomorrow my boss will sack me’) are not real. It can help to give negative thoughts a name, such as ‘Donald’. When they appear you can say to yourself ‘oh there’s Donald sounding off again’. This sounds crazy, but it works.
  • Try saying to yourself ‘I am enjoying being awake, let’s see how long I can stay awake for’. Studies show the ‘paradoxical intention’ of deliberately trying to stay awake when you are desperate to go to sleep can lead to you falling asleep.
  • Deep breathing exercises can reduce stress by activating the parasympathetic system which causes your heart to slow and your blood pressure to drop. Start by taking a slow, deep inhale through the nose, allowing the air to fill your lungs. Hold for a count of two, then breathe out slowly through your mouth.
  • Give yourself a strict 20-minute time limit. If, after 20 minutes, you are still awake, you should get out of bed and out of your bedroom. Good sleep depends on you associating bed with sleep and sex, nothing else – and particularly not with worrying. The main thing is to try not to worry about being awake.
  • If you can’t sleep, don’t watch TV or scroll through social media (too stimulating). Listen to ­soothing music, a dull podcast or read a book you have read before. When you start to feel sleepy, go back to bed.

Make time to get amorous

Sex can improve your sleep. That is because regular sex boosts levels of the chemical oxytocin (also known as the ‘love hormone’ as it aids human bonding) while reducing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. But sex seems to be a more effective sleep aid for men than for women.

Stop the sleepwalker

If your child or partner sleepwalks at around the same time every night, try gently waking them about half an hour before they would normally start sleepwalking. This should disrupt their sleep cycle, and in some cases that is enough to stop their parasomnia (the name for any sort of unusual physical effect that interrupts normal sleep).

You will need to do this every evening for at least a week to break the cycle.

To check if your pillow is giving you enough support, fold it and see if it springs back open

To check if your pillow is giving you enough support, fold it and see if it springs back open

Have you got the right type of pillow?

  • Your pillows should be soft yet supportive – and should be replaced every couple of years. If you fold it and it doesn’t spring back open, then it probably isn’t giving your neck enough support
  • If you sleep on your back, pick a thinner pillow that doesn’t prop the head too high, putting stress on the neck.
  • Stomach sleepers need a really thin pillow, or no pillow at all, to ensure the spine stays straight and to minimise stress on the lower back.
  • For those who sleep on their side (the most popular position), a standard pillow will do.

10 steps to a dreamy bedtime routine 

The best way to ring-fence good sleep, night after night, is by setting a regular bedtime and creating a wind-down routine you can look forward to each night.

  1. Eat your last meal at least three hours before you go to bed so the digestive process doesn’t interfere with your core body temperature, which should be starting to fall as bedtime approaches. Late-night eating forces the gut to spring into action, which raises body temperature.
  2. Enjoy a ten-minute soak in a hot bath an hour before bedtime. The warm water raises your body temperature, increasing the circulation of blood to your skin, hands and feet. Afterwards, your core temperature will slowly drop over the course of an hour, helping to trigger changes in the brain which induce sleep.
  3. Dim the lights around your house a few hours before bed as bright lights can reduce production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
  4. Shun the nightcap. While a few drinks might help you drop off, they will also lead to snoring and more fragmented sleep later on.
  5. Listen to mellow music before turning in. Studies have shown that older adults who listen to relaxing music before bed fall asleep faster, sleep longer and wake up less during the night. The ideal sleep-inducing tunes have a slow rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute.
  6. Put your mobile phone on sleep mode an hour before bed and hide it in a drawer or charge it in another room so you’re not tempted to scroll (it’s not so much the light from the screen that’s the problem as the stimulation from unexpected messages). Remove the TV and any computers. Electronic devices excite the brain just at the point where you need everything to be calm and relaxed.
  7. Climb into bed before midnight – your brain gets its deepest sleep during the first half of the night.
  8. Check that your bedroom is cool – 18C (64F) helps the hibernation process.
  9. If you are a sensitive sleeper (or your partner snores), wear earplugs.
  10. Keep a notebook by your bed and before switching off the light each night, jot down a list of everything you need to do the next day. One US study found this gets you asleep nine minutes quicker – a similar impact to taking a sleeping pill. Keeping a journal also appears to reduce the tendency to wake up in the night.
A cup of hot chocolate before bed can cause your blood sugars to rise and keep on rising into the night

A cup of hot chocolate before bed can cause your blood sugars to rise and keep on rising into the night

Cocoa? It’ll keep you up at night

A cup of hot chocolate or a bowl of cereal just before bed may sound soothing but it is a bad idea. Your pancreas, which produces insulin, will have closed down for the night, so it won’t be ready for the big sugar hit that cereal or cocoa will deliver. This will cause your blood sugars to rise and keep on rising into the night, which is bad for sleep as well as for your body. Any protein in the food will also cause your stomach to release acid triggering reflux (heartburn). 

Take a tip from the Romans… eat beetroot to put lead in your pencil

As a Daily Mail columnist and health writer, Michael Mosley shared many tips to rev up our love lives. Here are just some of them…

  • Switching to a Mediterranean diet should give your sexual prowess a bit of a boost, as studies show that oily fish, olive oil, garlic and onions help to improve blood flow to the sexual organs and minimise the risk of impotence. In one study, women who consistently ate a Mediterranean-style diet scored higher on desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction. Another trial found that men who consumed more fruit, vegetables, nuts, wholegrains and olive oil over a two-year period reported an improvement in erectile function.
  • Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as oily fish) have been shown to help increase testosterone, which is crucial for sex drive and performance. Omega-3s are also believed to help prevent the build-up of plaque in your arteries, which can help to promote blood flow to those all-important areas of the body during sex.
  • Eat more beetroot – the nitrates in this root vegetable can help lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the sexual organs. The Romans used beetroot as an aphrodisiac.
Foods such as beetroot, pistachio nuts and even red wine can help improve your life in the bedroom

Foods such as beetroot, pistachio nuts and even red wine can help improve your life in the bedroom

  • Pistachio nuts are thought to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. One study showed men who ate 100g a day for three weeks experienced firmer erections and increased blood flow to the penis.
  • Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard are excellent sources of magnesium, which has been shown to positively affect testosterone levels. One 2011 study showed that magnesium supplements could prompt a testosterone hike.
  • Stop smoking – cigarettes damage the small arteries and nerves that are so important for getting and maintaining an erection (40 per cent of regular smokers have problems in this department). Women are also affected because smoking cigarettes can cause circulation problems that can lead to reduced arousal and intimate dryness.
  • Enjoy a glass of your favourite red wine. A study of 798 Italian women found that those drinking one to two glasses of red wine a day reported greater ‘sexual desire’ as well as ‘overall sexual function’ than teetotallers.

Adapted by Louise Atkinson from 4 Weeks To Better Sleep by Dr Michael Mosley, published by Octopus, priced £14.99). © Michael Mosley 2023

To order a copy for £13.49, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937. Offer valid until June 30. UK p&p free on orders over £25.

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