If you’ve found yourself tossing and turning at bedtime lately, you’re certainly not alone.
With Covid-19 bringing the world into unchartered waters so suddenly and with life as we know it, along with our daily routines, being turned upside-down, it’s to be expected that many of us are having trouble sleeping lately.
We may be facing the uncertainty of job loss, and fears for the health of loved ones. We may be leaning on unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol to manage our anxiety levels, or be caught up in scrolling unsettling news before bedtime.
This is all completely understandable and we’re all responding to this crisis in different ways. However, as we adjust to our new stay-at-home realities and try to stay healthy in a time of Covid-19, improving our sleep patterns will offer protective and lasting wellbeing benefits.
Sleep is very important to our physical health, and a good night’s sleep will give a great boost to our immune system.
In fact, getting between 7 – 9 hours helps us to:
- Mind our mental and physical health
- Cope better and regulate our emotions
- Concentrate and motivate ourselves.
Stressful events can impact our sleep, therefore practising and maintaining healthy sleep habits or ‘hygiene’ during these times can be of great benefit to us.
There is no doubt that anxiety, concerns and mental health difficulties may increase during these tough and new times. However, we should also remember that there are small and achievable things we can to do maintain and enhance our mental health and wellbeing.
Whether you’ve had sleeping problems before Covid-19, or if they’ve only come on recently, there are clear action steps that you can take to improve your sleep and boost your health and your mood.
Steps for a good night’s sleep
There are some simple steps we can take to look after our sleep and practice good sleep hygiene during times of social distancing and self-isolation.
Stick to a regular routine
With many of us experiencing a change in our normal routine, for example, working from home, having structure in our lives is especially important. The hours we work can influence our sleeping patterns so having regularity in our day is essential. Try to continue going to bed and getting up at the same times as you did before, and try stick to the same sleep schedule, an essential factor for sleeping well.
Exercising daily contributes to better sleep. Social distancing restrictions limit our opportunities but there are certain things we can all do such as walking, (while maintaining distance) or video exercise classes at home. Stay active and purposeful by catching up on long deferred household tasks and use this time wisely. Get into the garden, rearrange furniture, clean, or redecorate! Avoid doing strong intensive exercise right before bedtime.
Some useful resources below.
Mind your mind
Sleep and mental health are interconnected, and it is especially important to look after our mental health during this time The Five Ways for Tough Times provides some tips on staying healthy both physically and mentally during these extraordinary times. Mindfulness apps such as Headspace can help us rewind before bed as does having a bath, keeping with our usual bed time, curtailing tea/coffee late in the evening and not using alcohol as a sleeping aid. Mental Health Ireland’s podcast episode on Sleep with Dr Matthew Sadlier offers practical tips on how to achieve and maintain a healthy sleep pattern.
Seek bright light
According to the Sleep Health Foundation (2020), this is especially important in the morning to kick start our body clock. If leaving the house is not possible, open the curtains and windows and let natural light and air circulate in your home.
The Sleep Health Foundation (2020) recommend having regular check ins with family and friends during these times. If you are lonely, and do not have a social circle or close family reach out to someone who can help such as:
Alone – Support line for older people: 0818 222 024
Samaritans -Support line for all ages – 116123
Turn2me.org – Online mental health support
Jigsaw – Youth mental health support
Reduce screen time
As working, studying or connecting from home has become commonplace, it is important to take regular breaks from screens and avoid looking at phone screens at least an hour before bed, as this can stimulate our eyes and brain. Putting these boundaries in place may also help us limit our media exposure, which can be overwhelming at the moment.
Keep good bedroom habits
Although the reality for many of us is that bedrooms have become temporary offices right now, be mindful that your bed should be primarily used for sleep and sex and using this for anything else can have negative impacts on our sleep. The Health Safety Authority recommend that employers should ensure employees have healthy working spaces at home. For further information click here.
Please remember that we’re all different, so try to understand your own cycle and triggers and remember if you still have trouble sleeping, that’s okay. Like an unsettled night’s sleep, this too shall pass.
Written by Amy Gibney, Mental Health Ireland