If your sleep habits have changed over the recent months, you’re not alone. Changes to work and study schedules, resettling into a ‘new normal’, not being able to socialise and exercise as freely, as well as increased stress due to the pandemic – all of these can impact our sleep and therefore our health.
Perhaps you’re getting less sleep than you’d like, are struggling to wake when you need to, or can’t easily drift off or get back to sleep.
Establish a routine
While we often think sleep routines are for children, they’re just as beneficial for adults. Having a regular bedtime and wakeup time is a good idea. It brings structure to your day and helps your body adjust accordingly.
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, adults should aim for 7 – 9 hours sleep a night. Factor in another hour on top of that to simply unwind and you’ll establish a healthy bedtime routine for yourself.
We’ve all heard the advice about avoiding blue light (from our phones, computers, TVs) due to the impact it has on our circadian rhythms. With studies highlighting the effect blue light has on boosting our energy levels, it makes sense to minimise your use of tech at night.
Resist the temptation to check your work emails or scroll through your social feeds as it’ll be harder to relax. If you’re thinking about all the things you have to do tomorrow, write a list and come back to it the next day.
Listen to a sleep app, read a book or magazine, enjoy a cup of (non-caffeinated) tea, run a bath, stretch – whatever helps you relax.
While we know it’s not a great idea to drink coffee before bed, do you taper off your caffeine intake throughout the day? Caffeine is a stimulant and it can have a much longer effect on your body and mind than you may think – that long black you had around 4.00pm will likely still be in your bloodstream by 9.00pm.
How about other sources of caffeine, such as tea, soft drinks and chocolate? Steer clear of these from the late afternoon onwards if you want to be able to drift off at night-time.
Move your body
Exercise can help us sleep more deeply due to physical exertion while also reducing stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that consistent periods of exercise (a regular workout routine) results in longer sleep.
Some people prefer to exercise in the mornings, others after work, or you just may need to fit it in where you can. It can be more difficult to unwind if you exercise late at night, so keep that in mind when planning your day.
We spend around a third of our life asleep, so you want to be comfortable. Invest in a good quality mattress and pillow as well as nice sheets and blankets.
Ensure your bedroom is a Goldilocks ‘not too cold, not too hot’ comfort zone. Aim for a temperature between 12 – 22 degrees Celsius. If you usually sleep with the heater on, invest in warmer bedding and crack the window open slightly to get fresh air. This can make a world of difference to how you sleep.