Over the last four months of living through this unforeseen global pandemic, we’ve seen profound changes to our work, social and personal lives. From experiencing the devastating loss of loved ones to losing jobs and not to mention the terrible repercussions on the tourism and hospitality sectors, it’s no wonder that these events have impacted on our ability to sleep well. It doesn’t help that the news has been inundated with stories of cases on the rise and lockdown being extended in certain cities. We’re a society that spends a lot of time on our phones, and the constants news updates can only increase the worry and unease. It therefore comes as no surprise that research has shown out of 2,700 people surveyed, nearly half of those (43%) are now finding it harder to fall asleep, with anxiety around the current situation affecting sleep for 75% of the respondents.
There are many negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the body. Sleep is such a vital process to our wellbeing, our biological process and the benefits range from strengthening our immune system, enhancing our mental functions and raising our energy levels. Without adequate sleep, our moods can become massively affected as a result. Research also suggests that a lack of sleep can contribute to a range of mental health conditions like PTSD, Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.
So, with this in mind, what can we do to help us get a good night’s sleep?
Get outdoors and breathe in the fresh air. If it’s raining and you have to stay in, make sure the curtains are drawn and the windows are open for some daylight. Our body runs on a natural clock and as habitual as it has felt in recent months to stay indoors, now that restrictions have eased, we need those external cues so our body clock continues to work properly. Whether you want to challenge yourself with some exercise – the Couch to 5K App has become a popular way of encouraging many to ease themselves into running – or you simply take a five minute walk around the block, try to ensure that being outside is part of your daily routine.
KEEP to the routine you’ve established for yourself. Try to keep lie-ins for the weekend, set a time you wake up and sleep and STICK to it- allowing yourself a full 9 hours of sleep if you can.
Don’t worry, you can have that morning coffee – but make sure you stop drinking caffeine before at least 2pm. Caffeine is found in a large selection of drinks, from normal teas to herbal teas, coffee to Coca Cola, and actually stays in your system for longer than you think. The “half-life” of caffeine is how long it takes for only half the amount of caffeine to be eliminated from your body – and that can take up to 6 hours. This means if you have a mid-afternoon espresso at 4pm, you could still be feeling the effects of that coffee at 10pm.
Stop the scrolling, get off your phone and avoid blue light exposure at least an hour before bed. It’s the blue light emitted from your phone that actually stimulates your brain which makes it really difficult for us to relax and switch off. The brain produces melatonin which helps us to sleep and this is suppressed when we focus on the blue light. Pick up a new book, run a warm bath with some Lavender essential oils (lavender has been well recognised for its calming effects on the body) or perhaps practise some breathing exercises – easily accessible through Youtube or the app Headspace – to help you wind down before bed.
Speak to someone if you’re feeling anxious or low about the current situation – or any situation that feels on your mind. Whether that’s a loved one, a close friend you trust or a helpline, it’s important to be able to share your concerns and feel that a weight has been lifted. SHOUT is a fantastic 24/7 service that provides help to those in need from trained volunteers. It’s free and extremely helpful if you feel like you have nowhere else to turn.
What do you recommend for a good night’s sleep? Let us know in the comments below!