By Nina Chatzistergiou,
The COVID-19 pandemic and the series of quarantines accompanying it, have become cause for many of us to be constantly staying at home and doing less, not only in terms of socialising but also of exercising. This can have a serious impact on our physical and mental health, consequently negatively affecting the sleeping schedule of many people, because we are usually just not tired enough. I mean human beings are made to interact with one another, undertaking activities such as working, going to school or to the gym; so naturally this period of confinement has affected all of us considerably.
A healthy sleeping schedule though is way more important for our mental health than most people realize as good quality sleep gives us the appropriate energy to remain unswayed by this unusual circumstance. Another common belief is that when people experience restlessness or discomfort related to sleep, they cannot do anything to make their situation better. This of course is not true.
But how can we make our sleep better? Here are some ideas:
- Do not overstress about falling asleep: If you do not manage to fall asleep in the first 20 minutes of going to bed, do not waste time struggling. It is way better to read a book, walk around the house a bit, write down some of your thoughts or aspirations in a diary or a journal. Remember 8 hours of restless slumber will ultimately leave you much more exhausted than 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
- Sleep routine: Commit to a standard time of going to sleep every night, this will allow your body to expect sleep. Engaging in a bed-time routine can have a most relaxing effect. Think of it like setting a timer, which will signal your body that it is time to rest and recharge.
3. Make your bedroom an electronics-free zone: This tip revolves around setting a rule for yourself. At least 30 minutes before going to sleep, set aside your phone, your computer or switch off the TV etc. Shutting electronic devices gives your brain some time to relax. Furthermore, experts have found that blue light is not just bad for our vision, but also causes our body to run low on melatonin which can often cause insomnia, tiredness and irritability during the day.
4. Avoid hot baths too close to bed-time: Yes, I realise the occasional scorching bath before bed can be exceptionally relaxing, but keep in mind that this can raise your body temperature, keeping you alert rather than relaxed, making it more difficult to sleep. A good 30 minutes to an hour before bed is the optimal time to have your bath.
5. Do not overeat at dinner: Overeating can be the cause of increased levels of alertness, resulting in frequent wake-ups throughout the night.
6. Be active during the day: Studies have shown that staying as physically active as possible during the day contributes to better sleep. This can mean different things to different people. It can be reading a book, ironing some clothes, working out, trying a new recipe, taking your dog out for a long walk, learning a new skill, attending an online seminar, rearranging the furniture, talking to your friends on the phone and just about anything else you can think of. It is a good time to challenge yourself to commit to doing things that you may have avoided before, and keep yourself busy while doing it.
7. Add meditation and light stretching to your schedule: During a stressful time like this, with inactivity becoming a form of a pandemic itself, meditation and light stretching can have immensely good results on our sleep. Five minutes is all you need right before you go to sleep to relax your body, cool down and proceed to restful sleep. Keep in mind that this can be a good way to start your day, too.
Most of us need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep to function properly, lack of sleep can often affect everything from our emotions to how well we focus on tasks like driving. This makes maintaining a healthy sleeping schedule despite the distasteful circumstance of the quarantine imperative.
An extra tip from someone who is familiar with anything related to coffee: try to limit caffeine consumption (between 1 to 3 cups at most) before lunch. Drinking coffee later can result in your brain staying on high alert interfering with your sleeping schedule.
- Healthy Sleep, Twelve tips to improve your sleep. Available here.
- CDC, Tips for better sleep. Available here.
- Headspace, How to sleep better. Available here.