Sleep also impacts directly on our immune systems. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of inflammation in the body, which in turn increases our susceptibility to viruses and other diseases. Getting enough quality sleep is therefore more important now than ever in order to maintain good physical health and emotional wellbeing during exceptionally difficult times.
Top tips for promoting positive sleep
Make time to unwind
Spend some time relaxing and watching, listening or reading about things that have nothing to do with COVID-19. This is especially important in the hour or so before going to sleep, so that you can go to sleep with a relaxed mind.
Assign worry time
Set aside specific worry periods during which you let yourself consider the worries of the day. Keep this period away from bedtime. Tell yourself ‘I’ll worry about this later’ and then let yourself worry about it for half an hour in the evening. If there’s something you can do about your worry, make a plan, if there's not, let it go.
Put pen to paper
Putting your emotions into words can also help you get through stressful events. This can help you organise your thoughts and better cope with your emotions.
Limit your media exposure
Limit your updates to once or twice a day and to one or two sources. Reading every news report and update on every news or social media site can feed anxious cycles.
Remember to breathe
When we experience stress, our breathing becomes more rapid. When you feel yourself getting worked up, pay attention to the length of your exhales and inhales. Try to breathe less than 12 breaths a minute. Slower respirations decrease the body’s stress response.
Try relaxation techniques
Meditation and mindfulness can help you unwind before bedtime.
Your bed is predominantly for sleep
Keep a strong association between your bed and sleeping. If you go to bed and find that you cannot get to sleep, or if you wake up during the night, get up and do something relaxing in dim light that is quiet and away from the bedroom. Go back to bed when you feel ready to fall asleep.
Create a healthy sleep environment
Separate your work and home space as much as possible. Remove any screens from your bedroom and reduce screen time before bed. Blue light has a sleep disrupting effect, which interferes with your internal body clock impacting on sleep pattern.
Improve your bedtime routine
This will mean you can switch off and sleep easier. Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol, as these can make anxiety worse.
If you can’t get out to the gym or your usual activity, be creative. There are many things you can do to keep exercising even if you’re at home more than usual or self-isolating. Look online for inspiration and ideas on how to use your home as a safe and effective workout space. Try the Nuffield Health 24/7 App it is currently free until March and is full of a variety of classes for all abilities.
Don’t worry too much if you did not get much sleep, or it was poor quality – it is not the end of the world. You will get through the next day alright and if you are quite tired, it's likely you will sleep better the next night. Keeping a regular routine will also help.
Keep a regular sleep-wake routine
As much as possible we should keep a normal sleep routine. Going to bed at the same time each night, and getting up at the same time each morning is important for getting a good night of sleep.