How to get a better night’s sleep, amidst all the worries about coronavirus

Struggling to switch off at bedtime? Liz Connor shares an expert’s tips for getting sleep back on track during the pandemic.
How to get a better night’s sleep, amidst all the worries about coronavirus

LIGHTS OUT: But are you stuggling to drop off at the present time?

BETWEEN homeschooling unruly kids, concerns about your finances and worrying about the health of friends and family, getting a full night’s sleep is no easy feat these days.

With so many extra stresses, it’s not unusual to spend the night tossing and turning.

At this stage, you might be wondering whether you’re having trouble sleeping because you’re anxious, or you’re anxious because you can’t sleep. The truth is, it may be both. Being in a heightened state of stress can delay the onset of sleep and cause anxious thoughts to occur at night. But lack of sleep can cause anxiety disorders too.

Research from Public Health England found 4 in 10 of us are experiencing more sleep problems than usual. We asked Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, medical director at Bupa Health Clinics (bupa.co.uk), to share his tips.

1. Maintain a routine

“With everything going on at the moment, it can be difficult to maintain a routine. Whether you’re furloughed or working from home, it is likely your ‘normal’ routine will have changed a lot from what it was before.

“Try to wake up and go to bed at a similar time to what you would before lockdown began. This will help you maintain a regular sleeping pattern — you should aim for seven and a half to eight and a half hours nightly.

“Avoid napping in the day and make time to wind down before bed. Do this by either reading, practicing mindfulness or taking time away from technology.”

2. Limit caffeine, nicotine and alcohol

“Drinking tea, coffee or energy drinks during the day can impact your sleep at night. While people process caffeine differently, as a general rule it’s recommended that we stop drinking it after 3pm — so consider switching to decaf or herbal teas after this.

“With alcohol, consumption may make you feel sleepy and reduces the time it takes for you to fall asleep. However, once the alcohol wears off, it is likely you will sleep more lightly and have more disturbances in the night.

“Most people are well aware of the physical health benefits of cutting down on alcohol — but there are also mental health benefits too. For example, alcohol can make people feel more anxious.

“It’s also important to consider the impact of smoking on your sleep. Nicotine can increase the heart rate and alertness, so if you smoke before bed, you may feel more awake.”

3. Manage your news consumption

“There are lots of techniques to help reduce anxiety, such as talking about how you are feeling with a close friend or family member. Another good idea is managing your news consumption throughout the day, and if what you are reading is making you feel overwhelmed, try to turn it off, focus on something else, or go for a walk to clear your head.

“Be careful about the source of your information. Try to stick to reputable news sources.”

4. Think about your sleep environment

“Your sleep environment is personal to you, but try to create a space that is cool, dark and quiet, as this will make it easier to fall asleep.

5. Take some time out from staring at the ceiling

“If you’re struggling to fall asleep, don’t lie in bed worrying or feeling anxious. Get up and read a book, or listen to a podcast or relaxing music. This can get your mind to focus on something else and ultimately help you feel sleepy again. Try to limit your screen time though.

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