Protecting your sleep in lockdown…

During these challenging times it’s important to do everything we can to keep our bodies and minds in good health and ticking over nicely.

It goes without saying that sleep is key to your health and necessary for physiological repair and stress management. It also helps regulate your immune system which is crucial as we try to protect ourselves against contracting COVID-19.  

During this period of self-isolation where we are perhaps having to abandon old routines and develop a new ‘normal,’ it’s important to prioritise nightly rest.

This may seem particularly challenging as the additional stress of lockdown could be disrupting your regular sleep patterns. Indeed, even if you do manage to drift off, you may find yourself having vivid and complex dreams.

Many people have reported to experiencing very specific and memorable dreams during this period, which is understandable considering that these types of dreams are often prompted by times of stress and anxiety.

But fret not! – Here are some steps that can help to improve the quality of your sleep during lockdown:

  • Sleep routine – If due to the lockdown you are now working from home then it can be easy to let your bedtime routine slip.  It can be tempting to stay up late watching TV or have long lie ins.  However, your body prefers you to have a sleep routine as this helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. Try to go to bed and get up at consistent times, allowing for at least 7 hours in bed.

  • Take some exercise during the day –   Exercise increases the quality of your sleep by increasing the amount of time we spend in deep sleep.  Exercise also helps us to sleep longer at night and helps us to deal with stress.  Often we have great intentions to exercise, but without a routine exercise can slip.  So, set aside a time each day to get active whether it’s going for a run or following a YouTube exercise video. Vigorous exercise is best for sleep, but even light exercise is better than no activity at all.

  • Natural Light – With self-isolation we are now spending more time indoors and so may not be getting enough exposure to daylight.   Daily natural light exposure is important as it helps to regulate our body clock and our sleep/wake cycle and improves our sleep quality. Research has suggested that 15-30 minutes of exposure to daylight each day is enough to improve concentration, lift moods and improve our sleep.  Try to take advantage of our daily excursions by exercising outside or you could even sit in your garden/balcony if you have one.

  • Have a news and a tech curfew – Excessive news intake can increase our worry and stress levels and using technology at night (phones/laptops/iPad) stimulates our brains through exposure to blue light.  Try to have a technology and news curfew and instead do something relaxing before bed such as taking a bath, reading or practicing mindfulness. This allows your mind to settle which will help you to drift off to sleep faster without thoughts whirring around in your head.

  • Watch your alcohol intake.  Without our normal routines, it can be tempting in lockdown to increase our alcohol intake, especially if you don’t have to go to work the next day.  However, alcohol disrupts your sleep causing a more disturbed and low quality sleep.  This means we can wake up feeling tired, making us less willing to exercise and less able to deal with stress as well. Plus, we all know alcohol is high in calories, so it’s best to avoid it during this time when we may not be moving as much and able to burn off the surplus energy.  If you do enjoy a tipple, however, keep within the recommended 14 units a week for women and men and try to have a few alcohol-free evenings each week. Or perhaps you could try a sustained alcohol-free period and see how that makes you feel mentally and physically. 

Keeping things simple and following a routine is key, so whilst indulging in another episode of Killing Eve with a glass of wine may be tempting, we suggest turning your TV (and phone) off and heading to bed where your body and mind can rejuvenate!