Several studies conducted in the past year have confirmed what we already know - lockdown is ruining our sleep. While many of us might have the opportunity to sleep more due to lifestyle changes such as the disappearance of commutes it seems that the quality of our sleep is declining and this is leading to negative health outcomes.
A lack of sleep has many effects and doesn’t just stop at feeling tired during the day, it lowers the effectiveness of our immune systems, hampers our ability to learn new things and remember, affects our mood and can increase impulsive behaviour (online shopping anyone?).
These effects certainly aren’t ideal and over the long term can build up to more substantial problems as well as lead to entrenched negative behaviours. So what then should we be doing in order to increase the quality of our sleep and get a better rest so we are ready to tackle another day of lockdown?
Luckily a group of leading sleep scientists have published a set of practical steps you can take to increase your sleep quality. We’ve summarised some of them below into some key categories.
Find a sleep schedule that works for you (and stick to it)
- Try to keep a regular night-time and wake-up time schedule: always get up at more or less the same time, bring some structure to the day, in particular for children.
- Use the current opportunity to follow your natural sleep rhythm closer (in particular for evening types and adolescents).
- Use this opportunity to allow your sleep period to fit more with your natural circadian preference (e.g. for an earlier or later sleep−wake timing than is typically allowed, in particular for adolescents, older adults and evening types – see explanations above).
A good sleep starts during the day
- Schedule brief (e.g. 15 min) times during the day to stress and reflect upon the situation: write thoughts down, talk about stress, etc. Try to restrict your thinking about these things to specific times to reduce the chance that this stress interferes with night-time sleep.
- Exercise regularly, preferably in daylight.
- Try to get natural daylight during the day, particularly in the morning, and if not possible, have your home brightly lit in the daytime by opening curtains and blinds, or having lights on; try to have dim light during the evening, with it even darker at night.
- If you are less active during the day than normal, also eat less at set times, and at the latest 2 hr before desired sleep onset, to prevent sleep disruption.
Beds are for sleeping (mostly)
- If possible, use your bed only for sleep and sex, and for no other activity; this is best achieved by only going to bed when you normally feel sleepy.
- Do not take devices and tablets into the bedroom (or minimise as much as possible); switch them off before going to bed to reduce sleep disruption due to light exposure, notifications, and the need to respond to requests and posts.
Blow off steam and try to relax
- Use social media to share feelings of stress and anxiety with family and friends, but also to share distracting positive information, e.g. with humorous content, possibly unrelated to the virus outbreak.
- Find helpful distractions, keep busy with those activities you are familiar with and enjoy doing.
- Limit the amount of time you are exposed to news about COVID-19. If more time is available and means allow it: make your home and in particular your bedroom a more comfortable, quiet, dark and cool environment.
- Choose familiar and relaxing activities before bedtime: e.g. reading a book, yoga, or having a soothing hot cup of water with a few drops of our Dream Sleep Elixir.