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Managing your sleep (even during a pandemic)

Posted on by Josh Duffy

We’ve been working with the Sleep council to bring you some expert advice on getting better quality sleep at a time when it’s needed most. Here’s Lisa's, Head of The Seep Council, helpful advice to improve your health and well-being through sleep.

In these unprecedented and challenging times, family wellness has never been more important - healthy food, regular exercise and a great night’s sleep can all help keep us fighting fit.

The Covid-19 global pandemic is an incredibly worrying time for many. Whether it’s being asked to work from home, having to take unpaid leave, closing a business for the duration of the crisis - and possibly home schooling children at the same time, it’s an extremely stressful time and this can impact on your sleep.

A good night’s rest has a significant impact on our mood and mental wellbeing, so it’s really important to be sleeping well. While that won’t stop the virus, our immune systems become suppressed when we are sleep deprived. And we all need to feel at the top of our game to deal with all the added pressures of isolation, being housebound and worrying about family and finances.

Here's The Sleep Council’s lowdown on sleeping through the lockdown:

STAY ACTIVE

Take the one ‘permitted’ form of exercise you can do every day and go for a walk/run/cycle etc. If you are completely in isolation, home exercise – workout videos on YouTube, gardening and even housework – can really help your ability to sleep and is a great mood booster. 

 

AVOID ANXIETY

Not surprisingly, we’re all feeling anxious! This causes thoughts to race through your mind, muscles to tense and the heart to beat faster, all of which make it more difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep or wake up too early. Yoga, deep breathing, a walk outside or talking on the phone/video-calling friends and family can all help. Or try distracting yourself by reading, watching a good movie or even – if you have time on your hands – taking up a new hobby or learning a new skill.

DON'T BE TEMPTED TO NAP OR LIE IN

While working from home may give you a degree of flexibility with your work hours, try not to indulge in a regular daytime nap or enjoy lazy lie ins whenever you want. It throws your schedule off track and the extra sleep could make it even tougher for you to fall asleep at night.

Try to maintain some control on your sleep/wake sleep schedule which is important in periods of unrest. Not only will the routine keep you focused, it really does help to keep the body’s internal body clock in sync.

GET AS MUCH NATURAL LIGHT AS POSSIBLE

Working from home, social distancing or even self-isolating may mean you’re struggling to enjoy being out in the natural light – this in turn can negatively affect your mental and physical wellbeing. Where possible try to go out for a quiet daily walk, spend some time in the garden and open the windows for fresh air. If you’re working from home, try to position your work area near to a window. Natural light – even on a cloudy day – helps reset our internal body clock and make us more alert.

NO BINGE WATCHING ON NETFLIX

Self isolating may lead to a desire to binge watch TV boxsets. While watching back-to-back episodes of your current favourite show may feel like a relaxing escape at the end of the day, it’s actually getting your brain fired up, not helping it wind down.  Plus it’s well known that we should stop using electronics an hour before bedtime because of the blue light emitted. And given the current crisis, watching the news or social media feeds can prove quite distressing, so avoid doing so in the run up to bedtime.

 

AVOID A NIGHTTIME TIPPLE

Tempted to take an evening tipple to ease the stresses and strains of the day? While it may initially help you fall asleep more quickly, you don’t get the same quality of sleep after drinking alcohol and you will often feel unrefreshed the next day.

KEEP THE BEDROOM A SANCTUARY

Don’t neglect the basics when it comes to sleeping better. Your bedroom environment plays a part in achieving a good night’s sleep. It should be cool, quiet and dark and make sure you sleep on a supportive bed with comfortable, welcoming bedding. Keep computers and clutter out of the bedroom – this is a room where you should feel calm and clear headed – and do not work from the comfort of your bed!

ENSURE THAT THE BEDROOM CLOCKS ARE NOT VISIBLE

It is common to watch the clock when we are awake at night. For some of us, this can increase our anxiety levels and further prevent us from being able to fall asleep. It is not necessary to remove the clock, as, for example, some people rely upon their alarm clocks to get them up in the morning, but having the clock face out of sight will help reduce any sleep anxiety.

AVOID FUELLING UP ON CAFFEINE WHEN YOU HIT THE POST LUNCH DIP

Although there are significant individual differences in how caffeine affects each of us, give yourself enough time between your last caffeine intake and your sleep time to make sure that it does not interfere with your ability to get off to sleep. If you’re feeling lethargic in the afternoon, spend 10 minutes outside or put one of your favourite songs on to lift your mood.

AND BREATHE...

Finding ways to relax before you fall asleep is key and none more so when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. Practice relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises. Some may prefer to use guided meditation, mindfulness or white noise to feel calm, other may prefer to read or listen to soothing music. Do what makes you feel good.

Lisa Artis 
The sleep Council