COVID-19 has taken control of our lives in a way no tyrant in recent memory has ever managed to pull off, with around one in five people in the world currently in lockdown, healthcare systems buckling and whole economies on the brink of crashing. One overlooked but concerning cost of all this uncertainty and anguish is sleep loss.
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Speaking to Express.co.uk, Silentnight’s sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan explained that heightened stress can put the nervous system into “survival mode”, also known as the Sympathetic Nervous System.
As she explained, this is the part of the nervous system that doesn’t allow us to sleep.
“We are dealing with different stresses on a day to day basis, and many don’t realise how this can affect our sleep, mood and overall performance,” said Dr Nerina.
As she points out, it is of vital importance that we value our need for good restorative, sleep against this backdrop.
So, how do we get around it?
Dr Nerina has four top tips to restore your sleep cycle:
Use your bedroom as your sanctuary
As she explains, your bedroom should feel like a sanctuary. If possible, avoid working in your bedroom and if you have to designate an area for work, ensure you never work in bed.
Keep your bedroom clean, well-ventilated and free of clutter and use scented candles and oils such as lavender and eucalyptus to create a haven of peace and calm, she says.
“Ideally, leave electronics out of the bedroom and use an old fashioned clock instead of your phone for time keeping. Avoid checking the time when you wake up during the night,” says Dr Nerina.
You should also avoid checking the time when you wake up during the night, she said.
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“This is your safe space and the place where you go to rest and rejuvenate,” added Dr Nerina.
Calm pre-sleep anxiety
Dr Nerina said: “Practice deep breathing techniques, meditation, or pre-sleep yoga for 10-20 minutes before you get into bed.”
Another calming tip is to write a journal before you turn your lights out and list all of the worries, fears and anxieties that you’re feeling right now, she says.
“Follow this up with a gratitude journal listing all the things that you’re grateful for that have happened today including conversations, smiles and text messages – anything that has made you feel uplifted and positive,” adds Dr Nerina.
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As she explains, it is important to move and stay active as much as you can during this time.
“If you can get out into nature or a garden, do so safely,” Dr Nerina advises.
Why is so important to keep active for the sleep-cycle?
Dr Nerina explained: “When we exercise we produce a chemical called adenosine which helps the sleep hormone melatonin to work more effectively.”
Alternatively, if you can’t get out to exercise explore online programmes that you can do at home and even in a confined space, she says.
Another handy tip can be utilised if you have a wearable device, she said: “Keep it on during the day and set yourself the challenge to do 10,000 steps even while working from home.”
Manage the fear response
According to Dr Nerina, this is one of the most significant factors affecting our ability to get to sleep and stay asleep.
She explained: “Right now there is a collective pervasive feeling of fear and anxiety and while we need to know what’s going on and how to keep ourselves and loved ones safe and well, we also need to stop ourselves spiralling into significant mental ill health by consciously choosing to also notice what is good in our life – no matter how small.”
To combat this, avoid watching the news and going onto social media constantly and make conscious decisions about how often you’ll look at both, she says.
“Consciously choose to watch programmes and read books that uplift, inspire and make you laugh,” added Dr Nerina.
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