With rising anxiety over coronavirus and all the changes to our routines, drifting off to sleep can be a nightmare.
But snooze expert James Wilson, known as The Sleep Geek, says quality shut-eye is more important than ever.
He said: “The pandemic is a common stressor. Many people have been forced to change their normal routines.
“That’s enough to disrupt sleep but add to that the worry we’re feeling about health, loved ones and finances and you’ll find a lot of people are struggling with their sleep.”
To help you get your 40 winks, here’s James’s good sleep guide.
A few biological things need to happen for you to drift off. Your heart rate and core temperature need to drop slightly.
That’s why doing something physically demanding like exercise or eating too late can delay sleep.
Some 13 million Brits also watch the news at 10pm. Reports about the pandemic can increase anxiety, so try an earlier viewing or record the news and watch it in the morning.
Exposure to blue-light from your phone, tablets or computers in the two hours before you go to bed can also interfere with the release of the sleep hormone melatonin so try to cut down on your tech usage.
Instead, use your phone to listen to gentle music, audio books or a mindfulness app, such as Headspace or Calm.
EMBRACE A NEW ROUTINE
We are creating sleep anxiety for ourselves by trying to stick to a routine that does not suit our lifestyle any more.
If you had an hour-long commute pre-lockdown that meant going to bed at 10pm and waking at 6am, do not force your body to do the same now.
Listen to your body’s natural sleep cues – yawning, drowsiness and tiredness – go to bed a bit later and wake up later.
This is the perfect time to embrace your inner lark or owl, rather than forcing your sleep to fit in with old routines.
If the person you share a bed with is more of a night owl or early starter, try to find the sweet spot.
There is a two-hour window when we are primed for sleep so find the common ground and head to bed together then.
Then you can simply brush your teeth and hit the sack.
TWEAK YOUR BODY CLOCK
Your circadian rhythm – the inner 24-hour clock and sleep-wake cycle – will be affected by being at home all the time.
To counteract this, try to do your daily exercise earlier on and sit near windows or in the garden to encourage your body clock to adjust to your new routine.
Don’t nap in the day, though. One thing that makes us drift off easily at night is sleep pressure.
From the moment we wake up, our body is on a countdown to sleep, building pressure with increasing tiredness.
If you nap, you release some of that pressure, alleviating the need to sleep at night.
People are prone to naps from 1-3pm and 5-7pm, so watch out. Steer clear of fluffy afternoon TV and instead use this time to do some housework or exercise.
CUT DOWN ON BOOZE
Many of us are drinking more in lockdown. Even though booze may
make you feel lethargic, it is actually a trickster.
In the first four hours of being metabolised, it behaves like a sedative. But it later becomes a stimulant, interrupting deep sleep cycles.
You might wake up in the middle of the night and fail to have a complete REM sleep cycle, which will leave you feeling shattered.
You might also wake to use the loo because you are dehydrated or wake up at the crack of dawn.
Do enjoy your favourite tipple but only stick to a couple and drink lots of water to help counter the effects.