How to sleep well during the coronavirus outbreak
The coronavirus has affected all our lives, creating different stresses and anxieties; however we may not realise the full extent to which it has affected our sleeping habits and the way we cope with things. As we adjust to social distancing and are more aware of the importance of maintaining healthy habits, it is important to ensure you are sleeping well – getting enough rest offers great benefits.
Sleep is critical to physical health and effective functioning of the immune system. It also supports our emotional wellbeing and mental health, helping to tackle stress, depression, and anxiety.
Below are a few steps that you can take to improve your sleep during this global pandemic.
Establishing a routine can help create a sense of normality even in abnormal times. Many people find that setting a sleep schedule helps them fall asleep more easily and is a technique recommended by sleep experts.
Waking up and going to bed at the same times each day can help your internal clock keep a regular schedule, by doing this it helps teach your body to sleep better. Try sticking to your schedule for a while, the more you do, the easier you’ll find it to fall asleep and wake up refreshed.
Finding time to relax and get ready for bed is important. It is recommended that you give yourself 30 minutes to an hour to wind-down; this can involve things like light reading, stretching, or meditating along with preparations for bed.
Environments have a huge effect on sleep; take a look at the NHS top tips for sleeping better for information on how to create a restful environment.
Light can influence your body’s internal clock, which regulates sleep and wakefulness.
During the day, exposing your body to bright light tells it to stay alert - if you can, spend some time outside in natural light. Be mindful of screen time. The blue light produced by electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, and computers, can have a negative effect on the body’s natural sleeping pattern. As much as possible, avoid using these devices for an hour before bed. You can also change your device’s settings or use an app to reduce or filter blue light.
When it’s time to sleep, make sure your room is dark. Heavy curtains or shades to blocklight from windows can help; if you do not have these try an eye mask. Remember, electronics emit light, so consider covering these up or even removing them from the room.
It is easy to overlook exercise with everything happening in the world, but it’s important to maintain regular daily activity. Even a walk can be beneficial to you both physically and mentally, while getting fresh air can also help you sleep. If you find yourself needing inspiration on ways to keep fit, there is a wealth of resources online catering for all types of exercise and fitness levels.
Have a look through exercise tips on the NHS website. It includes information about the Couch to 5K programme, 10-minute workouts and other fitness guides.
It is normal to wake up in the middle of the night. However, the inability to fall back asleep can ruina good night’s rest. People who wake up in the middle of the night often tend to watch the clock and obsess about the fact that they cannot fall back asleep. Clock-watching may heighten anxiety about sleeplessness.
Before you go to sleep set your alarm and move it away from your view, then if you wake in the middle of the night you can avoid watching it or reaching to check the time. It is not necessary to remove the clock but having the clock face out of sight will help reduce any sleep anxiety.
On any given night, if you find that you’re having a hard time sleeping, don’t spend more than 20 minutes tossing and turning. Instead, get out of bed and do something relaxing in very low light such as reading and then head back to bed.
Many people neglect to rest until they go to bed, but by finding ways to relax during the day you may be able to improve the quality of your sleep.
Deep breathing, stretching, yoga, mindfulness meditation, calming music, and quiet reading are just a few examples of relaxation techniques that you can build into your routine. There are also many apps designed to help you relax, such as Headspace and Calm, which are great for people who are new to meditation.
Maintaining a healthy diet can promote good sleep. In particular, if you suffer from insomnia try to be aware of your alcohol and caffeine intake, especially in the evening, as both can disrupt the quantity and quality of your sleep. Try to avoid eating large meals before bed as these can leave you feeling uncomfortable and can lead to disturbed sleep.
The Sleep Council has some useful tools that can help you with your sleep from assessing your bed, to calculating how much sleep you need. Try its 30 day better sleep plan.