Sleep is vitally important to keeping us both physically and mentally well, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.
Sleep helps improve our immune system, during deep sleep our body recovers from the physical exertions of the day, whilst REM sleep helps us consolidate memory and builds our emotional resilience. This means that if you don’t get enough sleep then it is the part of sleep that gives us an overnight counselling session and prepares our body for the day ahead emotionally, that we are not getting.
The issue with sleep is that unlike other aspects of our wellbeing, such as nutrition or exercise is you cannot force it. In fact the more you try and force sleep, the more sleep is likely to run away from you. The tips below will allow you to make small changes that will lead to better sleep.
- Understand your sleep type. Sleep type is a continuum, where at one end you have early to sleep, early to rise people (sometimes known as larks) and the other – late to sleep, late to rise types, (also known as owls) with neutral or typical types in the middle. Think about how you sleep when you don’t have to get up for work or the school run and start to ensure your sleep routine follows your sleep type as much as you can.
- In the hour before bed focus on being relaxed (dropping your heart rate) and being cooler (dropping your core temperature) These are the physiological processes that help encourage the production of Melatonin the hormone that helps us sleep.
- If you are in bed for 30 minutes and not asleep, whether it is as you go to bed, or if you wake in the night, then you need to start again. Listen to something to help your mind wonder; a spoken word book, podcast, the radio or music of less than 60 beats per minute.
- Have a consistent wake up time. One of the systems that manages our sleep is sleep pressure, which builds during the day. A consistent wake up time will drive a consistent sleep time, so if you want to get your sleep back into sync, start with your wake up time, not your sleep time.
- Expose yourself to lots of natural daylight earlier in the day. This helps lift your mood and tells your body that it is now time to be awake. As we move into the darker winter months, a sunshine alarm clock can help the wake up process and a Lightbox, which mimics the frequency of light of the sun can be a great tool to raise your alertness levels and leave you feeling ready for the day ahead.
About the author
James Wilson, known as The Sleep Geek, is one of the UK’s leading sleep behaviour experts, helping people nationwide to solve their sleep issues. As well as assisting individuals to sleep better, James also works alongside household companies such as the NHS and Coca-Cola in producing products, services and environments to ensure everyone can get the sleep they deserve.
For more information, please visit www.beingwellfamily.com
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