Not been sleeping well? You’re not alone. Research from the UK’s University of Southampton has revealed that the recent lockdown triggered a sharp increase in anxiety-related sleeping problems, with numbers of those suffering sleep loss rising from one in six to one in four. Reported to be a direct result of the massive disruption to people’s lives, with social isolation, loss of employment, financial problems, illness, fear of being infected with coronavirus and the pressures of juggling work and home-schooling all contributing to the trend, young women and mothers of young children were noted as being the most affected of the study group observed.
Insomnia affects millions of people in normal times and is often caused by stress, anxiety or depression. Often linked to, or exacerbating an underlying mental or physical health problem, the study found that found women, especially for those aged 16-34, had experienced a deterioration in their mental health during the pandemic much more than men.
With the jump in insomnia amongst women linked to mothers taking on much more of the burden of home-schooling their children than men since March, especially among those who were also working from home and juggling both roles, if getting those essential 8 hours is eluding you, getting back on track is vital.
“Sleep is incredibly important for our health and wellbeing, and disturbed sleep patterns can have huge knock-on effects to our daily functioning’, says Dr Sarah Rasmi of Dubai’s Thrive Wellbeing Centre. ‘Luckily, small changes can make a big difference. Practising sleep hygiene by getting physical exercise, avoiding naps, having a regular bedtime routine, and disconnecting from screens before bed can all help.”
TOP TIPS FOR GETTING A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
“Relaxed breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness and physical exercise all promote psychological health and wellness, as well as reducing feelings of anxiety, worry and panic, that can disturb sleep patterns,’ says Dr Rasmi. “Build this into your daily routine, and follow a few simple tips in the evening, and the combination should vastly improve your ability to sleep well.”
1. Sleep like a baby
Just like babies benefit from a regimented sleep routine, so too do grown-ups. Try and go to sleep and get up at the same time every day – tricky when working from home and lockdown restrictions have changed how we conduct all of our activities, but essential to maintaining healthy sleep patterns. Having a set time to go to bed and wake up helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. Choose a bedtime when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock, you may need an earlier bedtime.
2. Make the most of your days off
The more your weekend/weekday sleep schedules differ, the worse your insomnia problems will become. If you need to make up for a late-night, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping in. This allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm.
3. Rise and shine
Make sure you get daily exposure to the sunshine – not so hard when you’re living in this part of the world. Your natural body clock is known as your circadian rhythm, and affects your brain, body and hormones, helping you to stay awake in the daytime, and telling you when it’s time to sleep at night. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm in balance, improving your energy in the daytime as well as the duration and quality of your sleep at night. Studies have shown that adults exposed to 2 hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep that night by 2 hours, and sleep efficiency by 80 per cent.
4. Get some exercise
Physical exercise has many benefits – it reduces stress and builds our tolerance to physical symptoms that can make us feel anxious. One of the best science-backed ways to improve sleep and health, and used to reduce symptoms of insomnia, exercise is also a positive coping strategy that can improve self-esteem. But try to not exercise just before you plan to go to bed – exercise increases alertness and stimulates the production of hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline, which can make it hard to fall asleep – so do your workout at least three hours before bedtime.
5. No more naps!
Working from home may allow you to add in a cheeky siesta to your day, but getting used to sleeping in the middle of the day will undoubtedly impact on whether you sleep well at night. While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, napping can make things worse. Limit naps to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.
6. Eat dinner earlier
Eating late at night may negatively affect both sleep quality and the natural release of HGH and melatonin. But the quality and type of late-night snack you choose may play a role as well – in one study, a high carb meal eaten four hours before bed helped people fall asleep faster.
7. Avoid alcohol
You may think that a nightcap will help you to sleep, but alcohol can alter nighttime melatonin production, and lead to disrupted sleep patterns, as well as being known to increase the symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring. Studies have found that alcohol consumption at night decreased the natural nighttime elevations in human growth hormone, (HGH), which plays a role in the functioning of the body’s circadian rhythm.
8. Make your bedroom blissful
“Optimising your bedroom environment is key to getting a good night’s sleep,’ says Dr Rasmi. “Making a haven that is quiet, cool, dark and generally relaxing to be in will make it far easier to enjoy uninterrupted sleep. Set your AC to between 20-22 degrees centigrade for the most comfortable temperature to sleep in, use blackout curtains to diminish noise and light from outside, and avoid digital alarm clocks or a TV in the bedroom – the artificial light they emit can disturb sleep.” Sleeping on a silk pillowcase can also help to keep the skin cooler than a cotton pillowcase during the night, as well as feeling super-luxurious, and being a proven way to reduce the formation of dehydration-related wrinkles.
9. Create a relaxation routine
Adopting relaxation techniques before bed have been shown to dramatically improve sleep quality. Whether it’s listening to relaxing music, reading a book, meditation and visualisations or practising deep breathing techniques. “Relaxed breathing signals to our body that it is safe to relax – this can be especially important after our fight-or-flight response is activated during a stressful day,’ says Dr Sarah. ‘Similarly, progressive muscle relaxation is built on the idea that stress produces tension in the body, and so relaxing the body can relax the mind.” Taking a relaxing bath or shower before bed is also a proven sleep inducer – researchers found those that took a hot bath 90 minutes before bed boasted improved sleep quality and experienced deeper sleep. Try using a lavender-based bath oil to further relax the body, which will not only induce sleepiness but will leave your skin feeling soft and smelling fabulous.
10. Try a sleep supplement
Melatonin is a key sleep hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to relax and head to bed, with melatonin supplements often used to treat insomnia. One of the easiest ways to fall asleep faster, studies have proved taking 2 mg of melatonin before bed improved sleep quality and energy the next day and helped people fall asleep faster. With no side effects or withdrawal symptoms, melatonin is also super-useful when travelling between time zones, as it helps the body’s circadian rhythm return to normal. Take around 1–5 mg 30–60 minutes before bed for guaranteed shut-eye.
For more information on Thrive Wellness Clinic visit their www.thrive.ae or email [email protected]