We’ve all been there. It’s the middle of the night and you’re staring at the ceiling, wide awake and all too aware of the minutes counting down until your alarm goes off. Maybe you’re worried about finances, or your family, or perhaps you’re just worrying about not getting enough sleep.
For something that should be the most natural thing in the world, sleep can be really hard for many of us at the best of times never mind during a pandemic.
The removal of our daily commute might mean an extra hour of sleep in the morning, and with little reason to be out of the house in the evening, we can get to bed on time too. Despite this, many of us will be suffering from a poor quality of sleep.
With our routines turned upside down and a constant flow of unsettling news, it’s no wonder that we’re struggling to sleep. We’re apart from loved ones and we don’t know what the future holds. That’s a lot to deal with even after a solid eight hours.
A bad night’s sleep can make functioning the next day seem impossible and can have a number of effects on our mental health, so now more than ever, it’s important to make sure we’re taking care of our sleep.
Set up clear boundaries between work and home
For some of us, work has not only crept into our homes, but also our bedroom making it much harder to relax when nigh time falls. The luxury of a home office, or even a spare room may not be a possibility. So, when you are looking for somewhere away from the kids to work, the bedroom might be your only option to set up a makeshift workstation.
The issue with this is that the brain begins to associate the bedroom with work instead of sleep. If work is a cause of anxiety, you don’t want that inhabiting a room in which you rest. If you find yourself having to work in your bedroom, then ensure that you have a clear divide between work time to you time.
This could be as simple as changing the lighting, moving your laptop out of sight, or taking a shower before retuning to the room. Small actions can help your brain to dissociate the room from work.
Limit screen time before bed
It’s important to keep up to date with the news but it’s equally important to switch off at night. Reading the news before bed is probably having more harm on the quality of your sleep than you realise and could be causing anxiety to manifest in the form of vivid dreams.
In addition to impacting the likelihood of staying asleep, phone screens also affect the ability to get to sleep in the first place. Switch off all screens at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep to help the body unwind and prepare for a restful night.
A large amount of our routine is beyond our control at the moment and that’s understandably causing a lot of anxiety in people. Deal with that nervous energy by channelling it into something you can control: your body. Whether that’s a few squats in the kitchen, a walk around the neighbourhood or a 5k for the NHS, do something to release those endorphins.
As well as reducing stress levels, studies have shown that exercise can increase the amount of time we spend in deep sleep which means a higher quality of rest.
Break unhealthy habits
Alcohol sales are booming. With more time stuck indoors, boredom rife and anxieties high, many of us are consuming higher levels of alcohol as a coping mechanism. Whilst a drink may have a short-term positive impact on our mood, these effects often wear off fast and we’re left with the dreaded ‘hangxiety’ the next day.
Our sleep is heavily impacted as our bodies detox the alcohol we’ve consumed, and we experience poor quality sleep as a result. This lack of sleep can cause anxiety symptoms to worsen and so a vicious circle begins. If you think alcohol is becoming a problem, it’s important to reach out to someone for support.
Remember it’s normal to not be getting the best sleep of your life right now. However, if you feel like you’re struggling and it’s impacting your life, talk to someone and get to the root of the problem.
Online therapy provides a safe space to talk about how you’re feeling, and your therapist will help you create a plan for how to manage difficult feelings when they come up – from the comfort of your home.