How to get a better night’s sleep in today’s uncertain world
Author: Jonathan Warren
Is a good night’s sleep something you’re struggling to achieve during these uncertain times? Are you having vivid dreams of inescapable dangers? Feeling overwhelmed with a multitude of worries and fears can cause scary nightmares and anxious, disturbed slumbers.
As lockdown restrictions ease and we settle into the ‘new normal’, a sense of unsettlement has swept across the nation - and with it, an interruption to our sleep routines.
With change happening all around us, good quality sleep is more important than ever: both for our mental wellbeing and our physical health. Sleep is always front of mind for the team here at Time4Sleep and we’ve devised five simple steps on how to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern during these troubled times - and boy do we need them! It’s time to hit snooze…
Keep exercising and eat well...
Holding on to a healthy diet is essential for a good night’s sleep and a bright-eyed start to the day. You should try and avoid eating big meals and sugary or caffeinated drinks late at night, as these can cause digestion problems and leave you tossing and turning. Solution Focused Hypnotherapist Dipti Tait explains why:
Eating late and too heavily will wake up the digestive system, and again, if you are trying to sleep while your digestive system is overactive, this will have an adverse effect on your ability to wind down.
If possible, stick to a light dinner in the evening and aim to drink lots of water during the day. Staying hydrated not only minimises your chances of loud snores from a dry mouth, but it also reduces the chance of headaches and dry throats.
Regular exercise goes hand in hand with a healthy diet and maintaining a healthier lifestyle will help you rid your mind and body of the anxieties that might be keeping you awake at night. To help yourself fall into a naturally deep sleep, try and exercise regularly - but make sure to do the appropriate exercises at the right time of day. Dipti says:
“If you exercise late in the day, the active chemicals in your body will mean that your brain will find it harder to switch off. This is why we need to reduce our stimulating chemistry in the evening and choose activities that are more conducive to calm.”
Starting the day with a high cardio exercise, such as running, and ending it with a wind-down routine, like yoga or stretching can help you achieve this balance and should help encourage your body to shut down more easily: meaning deeper sleep cycles and fewer night terrors.
Regulate your temperature...
During the humid summer nights, you might find yourself waking up mid-slumber feeling a little stuffy and sweaty. Though having the right mattress is key to a comfortable night’s rest, making sure you’re not too hot is absolutely essential in getting a good night’s sleep too. Did you know that your mattress plays a huge role in adjusting your temperature?
It is important to choose a mattress that can help control your body’s temperature and keep you cool during the warmer months: a mattress with a high content of natural fillings such as wool, cotton or bamboo is ideal for this, as they tend to be cooler as well as naturally hypoallergenic. Other options to consider are new generation elite gel memory foam mattresses that include intelligent temperature regulating technology to help keep you both cool in the summer and warm during winter. These mattresses include a temperature regulating cool gel that adjusts with your body temperature to ensure you’re never too hot or cold during the night, resulting in a truly refreshing night’s sleep.
Ditch the long naps...
Now that we spend so much time at home and often find ourselves sporting our pyjamas for work meetings and client calls, it can be really tempting to take more naps than we did pre-lockdown. Though a nap often seems like the best option when you’re feeling burnt out and mentally drained, we would discourage you from making this a regular part of your day. Dipti Tait says:
“Taking naps and falling asleep for parts of the day will definitely send confusing messages about your sleep patterns to your brain.”
Why confuse your brain with mixed messages that hinder your sleep pattern? Rather than lying awake at night and snoozing in the light hours, try and limit your impulse to nap and save all your sleep for when you’re supposed to. Your body clock will thank you for it.
Be mindful of light…
Light and your overexposure to it can have a profound effect on your sleeping regime. Be it an artificial glare from the many screens we now stare at, or the natural evening summer light creeping through the curtain cracks - too much light can be a hindrance when it comes to having a restful sleep. It’s important to reduce all types of light before you close your eyes.
To reduce natural sunlight and completely block out any rays that might disturb your sleep, we’d suggest blackout blinds rather than curtains, as the thick fabric will assure that you get a better chance at drifting off during the warmer evenings and brighter mornings.
Perhaps the most important light to limit is the blue light emitted from electronic devices: artificial lighting can hoodwink your mind and body into thinking it’s still daytime and delay your sleep. What’s more, the constant stream of information that we consume from our electronic devices can make us feel restless and charged up. And so we’d recommend limiting your exposure to mobile phones, laptops and tablets immediately before bedtime to ensure that you can fully wind-down and feel relaxed for sleep.
Write down your worries…
Busy times mean busy minds. At present, so many of us are overwhelmed with preoccupied thoughts and feelings that it can be extremely difficult to switch off stress and transition into sleep. There are a number of ways to achieve a rested mind - reading your favourite book or listening to a calming playlist can certainly tap into a state of relaxation.
Though these are winning strategies for many, we suggest penning down some of your most persistent worries and allowing them to leave your mind and stay on the page. Professional dreams analyst Lauri Loewenberg agrees that journaling your thoughts can lead to a deeper sleep and suggests that you try to think positively:
“Once you’ve sorted out your thoughts, turn out your light and as you drift off, think about what you love, who you love, the possibilities in your future, etc. These positive thoughts will transform into better dreams. ”
To avoid a build-up of negative or overly maddening thoughts and feelings, pick up your pen and put them away for the day. It’s important to prioritise your mental health and, in doing that, sleep must come first. The pandemic can wait.
For more advice on how to reduce stress and get a better night’s sleep, visit our relaxation zone.