To sleep or not to sleep....do we have the choice?
Since the Coronavirus lockdown started Charlotte Black from the Trust has experienced some disruption to her normal sleep patterns.
Here, Charlotte shares her experience and what she's learnt about getting a better night's sleep. Trust Medical Advisor, Susan Brennan, has also provided some supporting information.
You can also watch Charlotte's vlog and hear her talk about her experience.
"As we near our 6th week of lockdown many of you will hopefully be settling into the new routine of life during the Covid-19 pandemic. Routine is key for me. I am fortunate to still be working my normal full time hours, albeit in different circumstances, but I still find my sleep is disrupted.
I’ve always been a light sleeper and often sleep with earplugs in but since our lives became somewhat turned upside-down I’ve found myself taking a long time to get to sleep and waking up several times in the night, sometimes for a couple of hours. Determined not to let myself be ruled by my sleeping patterns I’ve been on a quest to try everything I can to rectify this. Perhaps some of you may benefit too!
Setting the scene for a good night's sleep
A calm and tidy bedroom can make the world of difference to how you settle down in the evening. Make sure your room isn’t too warm, your bedding is comfortable and clean and that the lighting is low before you go to sleep. Clutter can play on your mind without you even knowing it so take some time to make your environment nice and cosy.
Switch off so that you can 'switch off'
Try to avoid your phone/TV screens at least 90 mins before bed, the blue light can increase alertness and mess with your natural body clock. Read a book, draw something or play some quiet music instead. I’ve taken up drawing recently and it is very calming – it doesn’t matter what you draw or read, the act of it is relaxing. Adding white noise has proven to be beneficial for some people too."
If you need to use a phone then you could get a screen that reduces the amount of blue light given off by your device.
Limit caffeine and alcohol
"This seems an obvious one but avoiding caffeine if you’re struggling to sleep is very beneficial. We’re not strangers to several cups of tea here at the office, we certainly get through the Yorkshire Teabags, but consider how this may be affecting you. Simply switching to a decaf option could make the world of difference to your brain's “off switch”. Some decaf can taste a bit weird so I recommend paying more for Yorkshire Tea’s decaf option, you can barely tell the difference. Alternatively a glass of milk before bed can really help you sleep.
And alcohol sadly won’t help you sleep either. It can raise your blood pressure and heart rate. I’ve compared my sleep on my fit watch on a normal night and on a night where I’ve had a few glasses of wine and not only is my heart rate much higher while I sleep, my sleep isn’t as consistent. We sleep in cycles and alcohol can disrupt this making you feel much less rested in the morning."
Other helpful factors.....
Managing things that can disrupt your sleep
Anxiety and worries
"These are anxious times for a lot of us, staying positive is one thing but slowing your brain down is something we could all benefit from time to time. With so much going on in our world it’s no wonder we aren’t as calm as we may usually feel.
If you feel like you can’t turn off the chatter that goes through your head, try getting a notebook or Dictaphone by your bed so you can get those thoughts out – no matter how trivial. Having a journal of your thought processes can help get them out of your head and also help you to understand your own mind and see what is bothering you. You don’t have to share it with anyone, it’s just a process that can be quite cathartic.
Avoiding the news can also really help, especially right now! Limit your reading/watching of the news to dedicated times of the day and try not to obsess over the bad stuff.
Talk, talk and talk!
It can be easy to get wrapped up in everything and start to think about the coming months of uncertainty. Instead, just take each day as it comes and you’ll find it much more manageable.
Talking to those you have around you is really helpful to get your thoughts and worries out in the open. It isn’t easy for everyone but take some comfort in the fact that we are going through this together. Make time in your day to call your family and friends, arrange video calls and speak to your neighbours (from a safe distance).
The team at The Trust have also been ringing round to all our beneficiaries to check in with you, but if you haven’t had a call yet don’t hesitate to call us instead. There’s always someone here for a chat and we have a fantastic Health and Wellbeing Team who can look after you if you think your sleep and/or anxieties are unmanageable.
Use Apps to help take care of our minds
Headspace is a fantastic app that guides you through meditation. Not only for stress and anxiety but for sleep too. There’s easy tutorials to follow to help you start the process of meditation. It isn’t for everyone but it can certainly help to calm the brain and learn to let our thoughts pass through our minds instead of battling them. There’s also a dedicated sleep section where you can listen to music, sounds of the sea even a tropical jungle! There’s different price plans from £49.99 for a year upfront, £9.99 if paid monthly and it’s even free for NHS workers with an nhs.net account. You can do a free trial before you commit though if you prefer.
Insight Timer is another app based on meditation but this one has the free version if you don’t want to pay for it. There’s lots of music/soundscapes on there designed to help you sleep, but make sure you’ve got comfortable headphones or play it out loud in your room.”
Medication, treatments and equipment that can help
"Simba have developed a weighted blanket especially for people who are struggling to sleep at night. With the principles of Deep Pressure Therapy, the blanket is designed to calm and ground you, almost like having a full body hug! It’s a beautiful soft cotton grey blanket filled with thousands of glass beads. You’ll be surprised at just how heavy it is when it comes (they come in two weights, 6.8kg and 9kg) but it doesn’t feel too much once the weight is distributed. I kindly got sent one by my Dad a few days ago and so far so good!
Herbal medication and oils
There are a range of herbal sleeping medications and oils which you may find useful but always read the instructions carefully and consult your doctor about taking them. And if you’re still having real issues with sleep then you should consult your GP to see if it would be worth considering medication."