With more time to prioritise sleeping, we should all be feeling well-rested during lockdown. But if you’ve been feeling more tired than ever, you’re not alone.
Whether you’ve been falling asleep on the couch at 7pm, struggling to wake up in the morning, or been yawning your way through the day since self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic, there are a few good reasons why.
Prof Dorothy Bruck, chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, said heightened stress and anxiety during this time are the biggest contributors to disrupted sleep.
The never-ending news cycle could be contributing to stress, and being more housebound than usual could be increasing anxiety in some people.
A lack of exercise and getting less outdoor light can be disruptive to your sleep pattern, as well as increased alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine consumption.
Thankfully, there are some things you can do to develop better sleep habits and get that much needed shut-eye. Try some of these tips:
Wake up at the same time every day
Prof Bruck said one of the best things you can do to improve your sleep is wake up at the same time each day.
“People who study sleep often say that the waking up time is the anchor. If you can keep your getting up time fairly consistent, then that’s only going to work towards better sleep,” she said.
“If you get up at 7am every morning, then you should aim to keep to that. Sometimes on the weekend, we’re used to sleeping in a bit extra, but make sure it’s no more than an hour more, otherwise you can start changing your body clock.”
Waking at the same time each morning keeps your body clock synchronised, allowing for alertness in the morning and helping you to feel ready for sleep in the evening.
Get morning light
If you’re having trouble waking up and sticking to a regular sleep routine, try exposing yourself to light in the morning, advises Prof Bruck.
Bright light promotes alertness so open your curtains to let in direct sunlight, or if you don’t have access to natural light, turn on bright indoor lights. This helps because light suppresses your melatonin, and encourages your body to be awake and alert.
If you’re having body clock issues, Prof Bruck suggests eating breakfast next to a sunny window or going for a morning walk.
Ditch unhelpful sleep behaviours
Some people are sleeping too much, such as sleeping in during the morning, having naps during the day, or going to bed at night earlier than usual.
“If you’re usually only getting 8 hours of sleep a night, you should really only be aiming to get 8 hours of sleep while staying at home,” Prof Bruck said.
“Even if you’re feeling bored or cold, you should avoid going to bed too early. Having extra hours of sleep might result in extra hours of wakefulness. This can develop into a habit and lead to an unproductive (sleep) cycle.”
Create a night-time routine
Implementing a night-time routine is a great way to create a ritual that signals to your body that you are winding down for the day and preparing for rest.
For those struggling to get a good night’s sleep, Dr Bruck advises practising relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or meditation before going to bed.
Having a regular night-time routine, including going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, can also help with managing insomnia.
Don’t fret over lost sleep
The good news is: if you’ve had a few nights of bad sleep, it’s not something worth stressing about as our bodies have the ability to recover from a lack of sleep very quickly.
“If people have two or three nights where they are sleep deprived for reasons they can’t control, then if they have just one or two nights of sleep that are bit longer and a bit deeper, then they’ve recovered,” Prof Bruck said.
“Everybody has nights of bad sleep and the key thing is not to worry too much about them.
“And often, we sleep more than we think we do. We’re not very good at judging whether we’re awake or in a light sleep. And people who are poor sleepers are particularly bad at judging that.”