Getting a good night’s sleep can be tough – especially amidst a global pandemic. Whether you’re feeling anxious, doing less exercise or adjusting to an ever-changing routine, there are many reasons why you could be getting less of the good stuff.
We all know the perils of not having enough sleep. It affects your mood, stops you from thinking clearly, and can make you prone to serious medical conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Just as your body needs food and drink to function, it also needs sleep. When you’re asleep, your body heals and restores. And, when you don’t – your body can struggle to function as it should.
But in the middle of a global pandemic, when tensions are high and routines have gone haywire, what can you do to get a better night’s sleep? Here, we take a closer look at some things you can try to improve your slumber.
Separate your work environment
Gone are the days of trudging into the office. Now, many of us have switched our daily commute for a jaunt across the landing to our ‘office’. And while working from home has its perks, it can make it difficult to switch off, as Lucy Shrimpton, founder of The Sleep Nanny, points out:
“Try not to work in your bedroom if you can by setting up a desk in another part of the house while working from home. Or, if you don’t have a choice because space is limited, try to transform your work desk so that it looks completely different when you’re not on allocated work time.
“Put your computer and paperwork out of sight and make something else in the room the key focal point so that you’re not reminded of work just as you’re trying to drift off to sleep.”
Eat the right foods, at the right time
With the days all merging into one, it can be difficult to stick to a routine. We may find ourselves skipping lunch, snacking more, or eating late at night. While many of us may thrive on the more relaxed approach to mealtimes, eating late can be detrimental to a good night’s sleep. As Lucy suggests, eat earlier in the evening to get a better night’s sleep:
“Try not to eat dinner too late, and avoid sugary foods or caffeine for at least three hours before bed. Foods containing high levels of tryptophan like bananas, green leafy vegetables, eggs and dairy combined with some fibre-filled carbohydrates are the best combination to promote healthy sleepiness.”
Journal your way to sleep
Journalling has been proven to boost mental wellbeing, but it can also help you sleep. This is especially true if you’re someone who suffers from ‘monkey-mind’. As Lucy says, “Keeping a notepad close by or even beside your bed is a great idea for those with a busy mind.
“You can unload your thoughts, ideas and ‘to dos’ by brain dumping these onto a page and allowing your mind to let go and relax.”
Step away from the caffeine
With the demands of lockdown and the repercussions of homeschooling, it’s no wonder that many of us now rely on our trusty hot beverage to get us through the day. But caffeine can wreak havoc with our sleep.
It could be easy to switch to drinks like green tea, cocoa, and fizzy drinks, but drinkers beware – these contain caffeine too. While we’re not suggesting going cold turkey, being more mindful of what you’re drinking can positively impact your sleep.
Don’t read the news before bed
According to Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep therapist and author of Tired But Wired: How to Overcome Your Sleep Problems, we tend to sleep more deeply when we feel safe. For most of us, Dr Ramlakhan says, for many of us, “watching the news before going to bed is definitely not a good idea.”
“Bad news fires up the sympathetic nervous system – the part of the nervous system that runs on adrenaline and cortisol and fights threat and stress.” In other words, making ourselves feel anxious before bed puts us on high alert, which is the opposite of what we need to sleep effectively.”
Lucy agrees that we should set a relaxing scene before bed is often a precursor to a good night’s sleep: “Warm lighting, candles, soothing music will make your bedroom your retreat to escape the world and unwind in.”