This year, 2020, has been a worrying one for everyone as we live through the Covid-19 Pandemic. It’s only natural that living in these uneasy times has affected our sleep. People who already had sleep problems are finding that they have got worse and many people who were good sleepers have now developed insomnia. We need to have a good night’s sleep to help keep us in good health. Take a look at our 10 tips to help you get a good night’s sleep during this time:
Keep to a Routine
During the first initial lockdown and shielding period, many sleep problems were brought on by our lack of routines. With no need to get up early for school or work many of us began to go to bed a lot later and then either struggle to get to sleep or not get enough sleep. It’s important to keep to a routine, even if that routine is different from your usual school and work routine. We found in our shielding routine we got up an hour later than we used to for school runs. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time each day and avoid napping and your body should learn your desired sleep routine.
2. Get Outdoors Every Day
I talk about this a lot on the blog, but it’s important to get outdoors every day. Before the days of artificial light, when humans sleep cycles were set by the natural light and darkness of the day, humans slept well. Now our lifestyles, no longer allow us to fall asleep at dark, which could be 5 pm on winter nights and wake during the light, but we can still help our bodies by taking in natural sunlight each day. Although we can’t go far during lockdowns, we can always go out in the garden or for a short walk. If you don’t have a garden or balcony, open a window and sit near it for part of the day. In the evenings, get outdoors and stargaze before bed, enjoy the natural rhythms. Try to avoid artificial light, especially from screens, before bed.
3. Go Sober
I hear many people say they can’t get a good night’s sleep unless they have an alcoholic nightcap. Actually, you don’t get good quality sleep when drinking alcohol. Alcohol is known to reduced the amount of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep you get. You may sleep for longer but will still wake up feeling lethargic. Give up alcohol for at least four weeks and see how it improves your sleep and energy levels each morning.
4. Limit Caffeine
Studies have found that you need to limit caffeine intake for at least six hours for bedtime in order for it to not affect your sleep. We buy decaffeinated tea and coffee so even if we fancy a cup of tea or coffee in the evening, we can have one without it interrupting our sleep pattern. It’s better still to only have herbal tea, especially relaxing one with relaxing properties, such as chamomile in the evenings, but if I’m no longer having my glass of wine then I do enjoy a nice cuppa with a good book, film or TV drama.
5. Be Active Every Day
Being active can improve your sleep quality. When I have a lazy day, I can feel that I haven’t tired my body out enough for a good night’s sleep. It also makes me more likely to get restless legs, which makes it impossible for me to sleep. Regular exercise, particularly in the morning or afternoon, can impact your sleep quality by raising your body temperature a few degrees. Later in the day, when your internal thermostat drops back to its normal range, this can trigger feelings of drowsiness and help you drop off to sleep. Of course, you get double the benefits when you exercise outdoors and enjoy natural light too, but when you’re unable to get out an indoor run or online exercise video (such as Joe Wicks or my favourite Lucy Wyndham-Read) will give you great benefits too).
6. Create a Calm Bedtime Environment
If you’re struggling to sleep, prioritise making your bedroom into a calm, peaceful space. Having blackout blinds or curtains can ensure a great sleep all year round. Try not to have any computer screens etc in the bedroom. Invest in a comfortable bed and mattress. You could pop a lavender sachet under your pillow. Turn the heating off at night as it’s not needed when your warm and cosy under the covers but set a timer for it to come on during the day if you struggle to get out of bed during the cold mornings.
7. Write Your Worries Away
One of the main reasons we struggle to sleep during the coronavirus crisis is because we have so many worries. We worry about the health of our family members and friends, we miss seeing our friends and family, we’re anxious about losing our jobs, surviving on less money, our children’s education and mental health. There are lots of changes happening all the time, which leaves us feeling anxious to cope with every change. While we can’t solve all those worries, we can try and stop thinking about them at night. Each evening, write down what you are feeling worried about. If possible, talk to someone about them. Think about which problems you can do something about and make better. Focus on the things you can change and make a plan.
8. Prepare for Sleep
Each evening, help your body know it’s time to relax and go to bed by preparing your body for sleep. As I said earlier, ban screens for a few hours before sleep time, and go through a sleep routine. This could be a ritual such as having a bath, lighting a candle and reading a book. As with exercise, the cooling down after a bath helps you sleep too.
9. Consider CBD
As the research is still quite new we can’t say for sure that CBD improves sleep. However many people believe that it helps them with their sleep problems so if you’re still struggling to sleep you could consider CBD for sleep. Research has shown that it can help with calming and anxiety, which in turn can help aid sleep.
Relax! Okay, I know it’s easier said than done, but once you’ve followed the sleep tips above and get into bed, it’s important to relax. Try relaxation techniques, such as my favourite – tense and relax each part of the body from your toes to your head. I was taught that in school and still use it when needed.
Is It Time to Get Help?
Sleeping troubles can be caused by health issues or chronic conditions. While healthy habits help, you may need to undergo medical treatment to address the root cause of the problem. For example, millions of people suffer from sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder in which patients experience breathing pauses that last up to 20 seconds during sleep.
People with sleep apnea often experience symptoms such as waking up with a headache, excessive daytime sleepiness, and observed episodes of breathing pauses during sleep. Presently, the most effective treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway (CPAP) therapy using a CPAP device, mask, and supplies.
Insomnia, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome are other sleeping disorders that may require medical intervention to treat.
I hope these sleep tips help you get a good night’s sleep!