The Sleep Charity has published advice for helping us enjoy a decent night’s sleep, amid rising anxiety and stress levels caused by a third national lockdown.
There are growing fears for the mental health of our nation after the Government announced instructions earlier this month to remain indoors, travel only when necessary and work from home where possible, as part of efforts to beat coronavirus.
But for many, the lockdown is a clear source of stress, particularly as the current dark and cold winter days make it more difficult to break free from the confines of the familiar four walls that surround us.
Advice issued by the Mental Health Foundation1 includes trying to stay connected with friends and holding regular conversations with others in your household, while extensive research has demonstrated the value of a good night’s sleep to an individual’s mental wellbeing.
A recent report2 published by The Sleep Charity revealed that 43 per-cent of us are finding it harder to fall asleep, with anxiety and stress caused by the lockdown affecting sleep for three-quarters of people.
More than one in ten (12 per-cent) of the more than 2,700 people surveyed say they are experiencing severe symptoms of depression, with women much more likely to report depressive symptoms in the ‘moderate to severe’ range than men.
More than three-quarters (77 per-cent) say lack of sleep is interfering with their ability to function in the day. Symptoms include daytime fatigue, a loss of concentration and changes in mood
Women are suffering more than men with anxiety around coronavirus and are twice as likely to report feeling stressed compared to men.
The Sleep Charity’s Lisa Artis said: “A good night’s sleep can be affected by everything from stress at work and money worries to more practical considerations such as a bedroom that is too hot or cold, or an uncomfortable bed.
“We know from past research that, as a nation, stress levels rise during periods of economic uncertainty, and it is clear the current national lockdown is having a negative effect on our sleeping habits, which in turn is damaging the nation’s collective mental wellbeing.”
One other worrying trend, benchmarked against a survey conducted in 2010, shows a 7 per-cent increase in the number of people sleeping just five to six hours.
Although NHS guidelines indicate that we don’t necessarily need eight hours sleep, experts believe that most adults require somewhere between six and nine hours in order to feel refreshed and to function well, both mentally and physically.
How to sleep better
The Sleep Charity has published its ten essential tips for achieving a better night’s sleep at such an uncertain and anxious time for millions of households.
- Keep regular hours – Routine is difficult under lockdown, but by going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, you can train your body to sleep better.
- Avoid using your bedroom in the day – Your bedroom should be kept for rest and sleep, and you should avoid the temptation to kill time there during the day or work from your bed.
- Take more exercise – The current regulations permit households to exercise outdoors once each day, and you should try to supplement that with workouts at home that burn calories and get you out of breath.
- Avoid caffeine – Don’t end up compensating for lack of sleep by going too heavy on stimulants such as caffeine in tea, coffee or cola – especially in the evening. They interfere with falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Have a hot milky drink or herbal tea instead.
- Don’t over-indulge – Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, just before bedtime, can play havoc with sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but it will interrupt your sleep later on in the night.
- Kick the smoking habit – Yes, it’s bad for sleep, and lockdown could be the perfect time to give it up. Smokers take longer to fall asleep, wake more often and often experience more sleep disruption.
- Insist on some ‘me’ time – In a crowded house, try to relax and insist on some ‘me time’ before going to bed. Have a warm bath, listen to some quiet music or do some yoga – whatever activity you enjoy most.
- Make lists to manage worry – Deal with day-to-day worries and questions by making lists of things to be tackled the next day.
- Make peace before bed – Spending all day on top of one another can put strain on any relationship, but ongoing conflicts are not conducive to putting you in the right frame of mind for sleep.
- Don’t worry so much – If you can’t sleep, don’t lie there worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again – then go back to bed.
The Sleep Charity, incorporating The Sleep Council, provides advice and support to empower the nation to sleep better.
It campaigns to improve sleep support, provide access to high quality information, raise awareness of the value of a good night’s sleep and promote understanding around the complexities of sleep.
Advice and information covering all aspects of sleep is available on The Sleep Charity website – https://thesleepcharity.org.uk/information-support/adults/