There’s a lot of anxiety around at the moment. For the time being coronavirus is at the top of everyone’s minds – and our sleep might well be suffering. Even when things are totally normal we often sacrifice sleep – whether we’re working late or partying late, whether sleep is a casualty of anxiety, and sometimes how little we can get by on is even worn like a badge of honour. However, sleep essential to maintaining good mental and physical health. Especially during stressful times.
 

If you need to be convinced have a read of this article from the NHS – you can’t really argue with the benefits of getting more sleep and the pitfalls of not getting enough.

Here’s a little exercise for you to rate your sleep, taken from the book, The 4 Pillar Plan, By Dr Rangan Chatterjee:

 

Sleep

 

Under each of the three boxes score yourself:

  • 0 if the answer is never / rarely
  • 1 if the answer is occasionally
  • 2 if the is almost always

A score of 5 or 6 means you’re having a very good go at taking care of yourself. Anything less than that means you could make a few changes to improve the quality of your sleep and feel more refreshed in the mornings.

 

Sleep in total darkness – lights from devices can be disruptive. Instead go to sleep in darkness. Get blackout curtains or blinds if you can.

Get as much morning light as you can – even on dull days there are light frequencies coming through the clouds which trigger responses in our nervous system which set our body clock. Aim for 10 minutes absorbing in the light.

Bedtime routine – as your body gets used to a new routine you will start to trigger a relaxation response as you prepare for bed. Your routine can start 90 to 60 minutes before you actually turn off the lights.

Reduce emotional tension before bed-time – part of this involves saying no – to work emails and whatsapps from friends. Even the news and tv shows we watch can affect the ease of going to sleep.

Avoid caffeine after lunch – it takes caffeine roughly 6 hours to disappear from our systems, but for some people it can take much longer.

Stop monitoring your sleep – apps and fitbits aren’t as accurate as lab equipment. But we treat them like they are. I have a client who would look at her sleep quality on her phone every morning and it added to her anxieties about not sleeping well. So I suggested she stop using it at night and it’s made a difference.

Improving our quality of sleep is just one part of taking better care of our overall wellbeing.