Sleep can be an elusive friend. When you get enough, you feel refreshed, renewed, everything works better. When insomnia strikes it can derail everything, and with the world in an enhanced state of stress right now, sleep trouble is rife.
Thankfully, I have never suffered from bad insomnia but I am finding it much harder to drop off at the moment. On some days this is due to anxiety over Coronavirus, and my mind just won't shut up. When this situation will improve? Will any of my family or friends get it? Will I get it? When will the travel ban be lifted? (see my article I wrote for Glamour magazine on this topic here).
When anxiety really hits, I use this tool to help focus on something more positive, but at other times I struggle to sleep simply because I am not tired. I am physically doing less to stay within government guidelines and protect the NHS, and it is taking a toll. I thought I'd give you my top 4 tips and tricks to get better sleep during lockdown, and hopefully they might help you too!
Keep a routine
The first thing I have done is to keep to a routine. I still go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even though I no longer have to leave my house at any time and could, technically, stay in bed all day if I wanted to. My wake up time is set in stone by my very noisy cat Ginger Rogers wanting breakfast but I am strict with myself about bedtime. It is so easy to stay up later than you would have done watching Tiger King (OBSESSED) but keeping to a routine will help you to maintain a sense of normality and control, and ensure you get enough sleep.
Switch off the screens
Similarly, the constant stream of information and entertainment we get from the news, social media and TV/streaming services keeps our brain buzzing and it isn't conducive to relaxation and rest. To try and quiet your mind, switch off all screens an hour before bedtime and read a book instead or do some gentle yoga. I use an app called Down Dog which I have recently discovered. I love it as you set all the parameters for the kind of session you want to do and it then creates a bespoke guided practice for you with both a video and spoken instructions so it's fully accessible too.
It is important to remember that there is both physiological and psychological tiredness. If you normally have a very physically active job, do a lot of sport or are a parent (which is the most exhausting activity of all), then your body will be physically tired come bedtime. Or if you are studying or working your brain a lot during the day, this will tire you out too. But if you've been furloughed or are unable to work, are shielding at home or unable to exercise, neither your body or your mind will be very tired and this will impact your quality of sleep. For me personally, the days where I really relax and laze around at home watching Netflix (and we all need these!) are the days I sleep the worst.
To combat this, I find the easiest way is to move my body, and/or my brain. Both can be done for free and inside your home if you can't go out.
Move your body
Online workouts - YouTube and Instagram are full of free ways you can raise your heart-rate at home. You can find anything from Zumba to pilates to martial arts, find something you'll enjoy and have a go.
If this sounds too difficult, follow Jane Austen's advice and simply take a turn around the room. It might feel strange to walk around your own home but these are strange times, and it will only feel strange the first time. Give it a try!
Stretch. Sitting down in the same place all day is no good for your body so even if you do some simple stretches each day it will help. You can even set alarms to go off every few hours that remind you to do a simple routine.
Move your brain
I am currently playing online scrabble with 6 different complete strangers from around the world. Words with Friends by Zynga is a great way to expand your vocabulary (I learn new words every day now) and engage your mind. And the competition element is fun too!
Boardgames and jigsaw puzzles are also ways to fill time and keep your brain ticking over, and a good alternative to screen-time after dinner. Monopoly anyone?
Learn a new skill! Calligraphy, drawing, creative writing, there are so many online courses to try and this will be putting your time to productive use. I am pondering learning Italian so I can converse with my boyfriends family. I have heard about several apps that offer daily coaching, but have never taken the plunge! Any tips on this would be greatly appreciated but I think it would be amazing to come out of isolation with the basics at least.
Do you have any other tips on how to get decent sleep? I'd love to hear them, let me know in the comments!