Times are strange at the moment, and all of our lives have been impacted to some extent by the current situation. Many of us aren’t following our normal routines, and sleep can be suffering as a result. Lack of sleep can have a profound effect on everything from productivity to mood, and if you’re tired all the time it’s hard to function normally. Here are our tips for enjoying a better night’s sleep.
- Keep a routine. This is the absolute number one thing you can do to improve your quality of sleep. You may have gone from getting up at 5.30am to commute an hour and spending nine hours at your desk to being able to watch Netflix at 2am, but both your body and your mind need structure! We’re all different in terms of how much sleep we need, but it’s normally between seven and nine hours a night for a healthy adult. Try to set your alarm for the same time every day, and put something in place to motivate you to get up at that time. For example, arrange a Zoom chat with a friend for the morning, to encourage you to be up and dressed!
- Set yourself some ground rules. Lots of us feel that we have so many restrictions going on right now that we don’t really want to put any more in place voluntarily, but this is all part of building up a structure. Checking your phone at 3am, watching films late into the night, working in the evenings or playing games online just before bedtime all stimulate our brains rather than soothing them. Devices that emit light, such as tablets and phones, disrupt our sleep cycles as they fool our brains into thinking it’s daytime, not nighttime. This inhibits the production of sleep-stimulating hormones. Make sure you have at least an hour’s downtime between switching off any devices and trying to sleep, so that your brain goes into ‘sleep mode’. Putting a structure in place also helps to reduce stress.
- Exercise. Exercise is a brilliant tool for helping ensure a better night’s sleep – not only does it make you more physically tired, but it also helps to calm and relax you. Spending time in the fresh air is also beneficial, even if you’re just sitting outside with a book.
- Create the right environment. Things might be a bit tricky at the moment – if your whole family is trying to work from home, you might well have ended up working in your bedroom just to get some privacy. This blurs the lines between a space used for relaxation and a space used for stimulating mental activity. Move your work area somewhere else if you possibly can, otherwise tidy up each night and put anything work related plus your laptop in a drawer once you’ve finished so that it’s not on view. Your bedroom should feel like a calming space, so give it a good clean and tidy up if necessary. Invest in some new bedding, and make it feel like a welcoming haven.
- Eat well. Diet is a surprisingly important factor in the ability to sleep. Going to bed straight after a heavy meal affects your ability to sleep, as your body will be more concerned with digesting than shutting down! It’s also important not to go to bed hungry, though, as this may also affect your ability to sleep. If possible, wait for three hours after your evening meal before going to bed. If you’re at home all the time, try eating a bigger meal in the middle of the day and a light meal in the evening. Avoid anything too greasy, spicey or sugary, and ditch a late-night cup of tea or coffee in favour of chamomile tea.