If you’ve found yourself tossing and turning more often while trying to get to sleep lately, you’re not alone.
The impact of Covid-19 has been felt all around the world and has brought a stop to life as we know it. As a result, your daily routines and habits have likely been turned upside down, you may be worried about all the uncertainty in the world, or the health and wellbeing of your family and friends, and your stress levels have probably skyrocketed.
With all of this in mind, it’s to be expected that many of us are having trouble sleeping. Research from the University of Southampton found that lockdowns led to an increase in people suffering sleeping problems, while a separate study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found an increase of 58% in Google searches for ‘insomnia’ in the first five months of 2020.
As we continue to adjust to the ‘new normal’ of staying at home, putting our social lives on hold, and trying to stay healthy amidst the pandemic, improving our sleep patterns will offer positive and long-lasting wellbeing benefits.
“Good sleep leads to better memory formation; better ability to learn things. Our task effectiveness is better. Our reaction time is quicker,” British neuroscientist Matthew Walker writes in his book Why We Sleep. If we haven’t slept well, “all of those things are going to suffer,” he says.
Whether you’ve had sleeping problems before Covid-19, or if they’ve only come on recently, these are just a few simple steps that you can take to try and improve your sleep and enhance your mental health and wellbeing.
Keep a regular sleep schedule
It’s important to try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even if you still feel tired in the morning. Adopting this regular nightly routine will help your body clock get into a rhythm and makes sleeping feel more natural. Incorporating wind down rituals such as taking a hot bath, doing a face mask, reading a book, or even just brushing your teeth are great ways to prime your body for a restful night.
Reduce screen time
Using your phone before bed can also cause sleep problems because of the artificial (blue) light it produces. Melatonin is a hormone we produce that promotes sleepiness. Darkness causes your brain to naturally release melatonin at bedtime, but exposure to blue light has been found to suppress this hormone, making it harder to fall asleep. Therefore, it’s recommended to avoid using electronic devices for an hour before bed.
Drinking coffee, tea or energy drinks before bed can make it harder to fall asleep at night. One study found that consuming caffeine six hours before bed still impacted sleep, even though participants no longer felt the effects of the caffeine. It is recommended that you stop drinking coffee as early as 2pm, or at least seven hours before bed, so that it doesn’t negatively affect your sleep.
Don’t overdo it with naps
Although taking a long nap during the day can feel like you’re catching up on some sleep, be careful. The Sleep Foundation have said that while napping has many health benefits, sleeping for long periods during the day can make you feel groggy, and affect your ability to fall asleep at night. They recommend that if you feel like you need a nap, it should be early in the day and should be limited to just 10-20 minutes.
Adopt healthier daytime habits
It’s not just our bedtime habits that play a part in getting good sleep. Establishing a daily routine can help your mind and body to acclimate to a consistent sleep schedule and help create a sense of normality even in abnormal times. Regular exercise, exposure to sunlight and fresh air, setting specific time aside for working and eating nutritious meals at the same times every day can all significantly impact your quality of sleep.
Author: Jane Moore
Image Credit: MarcusAurelius Pexel