World Sleep Day is March 19 and in the wake of ‘coronasomnia’, we could all do with a decent night’s kip. A study by Kings College London found that half of the population experienced more disturbed sleep than usual last year. This figure rises for those who’ve experienced financial worries due to the pandemic.
As a result that stress dysregulates the chemical systems needed for a good night’s sleep – cortisol rises instead of melatonin, the hormone that tells us it’s bedtime.
Many people’s sleep issues are worsened through anticipatory stress, whereby we fear an outcome before the event has taken place. When this happens repeatedly, a cycle begins to form. ‘The stress-sleep cycle is when feelings of stress stop you from achieving a sufficient night’s sleep, or when the thought of not achieving a good night’s sleep intensifies feelings of stress, thus exacerbating the cycle and making it harder to break.
We all know the physical and mental effect that a lack of sleep has – from struggling to concentrate to feeling lower. That knowledge contributes to the anxiety we might feel around not sleeping enough. Yet even though we know the regular tips for bettering our chances of deep sleep – such as avoiding blue light the hour before bed – we often ignore this advice due to our busy ‘always on’ lifestyles. So it might time to try a few unconventional methods instead.
Stop ‘no-sleep’ bragging
How many times have you worn your sleepless night as a strange badge of honour? Proving that you’re oh so busy and have important things on your mind. Don’t brag about how little sleep you get or say you’re “too busy to sleep”, as it isn’t healthy. Sleep deprivation has real health implications and is counter-productive, so we should be encouraging more sleep, not less. ‘We like being “on the go”, but dedicating enough time to “letting go” – sleep being the ultimate form – is the only way you can sustain a busy lifestyle in a healthy way.
Don’t be afraid to take a nap
Ban arguments two hours before bed as well as phones, it’s angry and tense energy that should be avoided in the hours before sleep. Be mindful of the emotions you’re going through in the hours preceding going to bed, as they will impact how quickly you fall asleep and the quality of sleep,Wrap up arguments two hours before bed, and have them outside of the bedroom, so the space remains a sanctuary for sleep. Wrap up work, tense calls or anything that causes stress unnecessarily by 6pm to minimise the opportunity to become entangled in something that will negatively impact sleep.
Permission to nap
People are divided on napping, with some swearing it prevents them from sleeping later on. But a NASA study on military pilots and astronauts found that napping improved their performance and alertness. Your circadian rhythm (the body’s biological clock) dictates that most people will have a natural energy slump between 1pm and 3pm. If you have trouble sleeping, you’ll feel it even more. Instead of fighting it, take a 10-15-minute power nap – but no longer, as you don’t want to go into sleep deep. There’s a false belief that if you rest or sleep during the day, you won’t be able to sleep during the night. Daytime naps recalibrate the nervous system, so you feel less “wired” come evening, improving your chances of falling asleep.
Enjoy your sugary foods in the daylight hours, but no later. Sugar intake can have a detrimental effect on the nervous system and the enablement of your body in releasing the right hormones to encourage sleep at night, so try to avoid high-sugar foods too close to bedtime.