The pandemic has given us so much to worry about, that a good night’s sleep is more important than ever.
How to go about it though?
Sleep makes up one-third of our lives and can affect our psychological, mental, and physical health. When our sleep is sufficient and of good quality, it invariably results in reduced stress levels, proper functioning of the immune system, and an overall feeling of rest and rejuvenation. Conversely, lack of sleep is damaging, even if it is a temporary condition.
Our times seem to be plagued by an epidemic of lack of sleep, long before Covid 19 appeared. Did you know that according to researchers, we sleep 1-2 hours less than people did 60 years ago? This is not surprising of course, considering the hectic pace of the modern way of life.
The recent pandemic seemingly slowed us down, but since sleep is stress-related, it was affected in a very negative way. Social distancing, restrictions, anxiety, financial and professional insecurity, create the perfect environment for sleep disorders.
In order to handle the conditions of insecurity and stress, there are a few small, simple changes we can apply in our daily lives, so as to take charge of things we can actually control. These small maneuvers will probably cause a domino effect of positive results for our health and well-being.
Practical tips for better sleep
1. Make time during the day for conscious relaxation
Sleep quality depends on the way we manage our daily lives. If tensions during the day have exceeded our personal limits, it is impossible to just push a button and relax when it is time to go to bed.
Here are a few ideas:
*Practice conscious breathing. We usually breathe without thinking about it, but if we focus on our breathing, the mechanisms of the parasympathetic nervous systems will be activated, and we will feel the difference immediately.
*Go through some relaxation exercises (such as Jacobson’s neuromuscular relaxation regime) or spend some time meditating.
*How often do you focus so intensely on something you like, that time seems to fly by? This is when you are in the “zone”. Perhaps it happens when you are preparing lunch, when you are doing some gardening or when you are reading a book. Find out which habits are your favorite and introduce them in your life as a daily routine. Make sure to tell your loved ones that you need some time alone and avoid using your phone, tablet, or laptop during these activities.
2. Get in tune with your biological clock
Our biological clock regulates the organism’s circadian rhythm and responds to the day and night cycles of natural light. When we avoid morning light (especially during lockdown periods), we end up overexposing ourselves to artificial lighting and deregulating our biological clock.
By respecting our biological clock, exercising, and spending time doing something we love, the brain’s reward system is activated, which is our body’s natural antistress system.
*Spend 20 minutes per day outdoors in the natural light, especially in the morning. Combine this exposure to the natural light, with a brisk walk or other forms of moderate exercise.
*Make sure your bedroom is totally dark before you sleep. The absence of light stimulates the production of melatonin, the hormone of sleep, and sends the message to our body that it is time to rest.
*Remove TVs or any other electronic devices from your bedroom.
*Deactivate all electronic devices 90 minutes before you go to bed.
3. Identify and express your emotions
During the day, when you are on a break, focus your attention on your feelings, without judging whether they are good or bad. Recognizing our feelings, positive or negative, is the first step towards accepting them.
Talk to your loved ones about your feelings, assuming responsibility for them. If you are alone, express yourself creatively, by singing or writing. All the feelings we are trying to avoid usually return intensified when it is time to relax or go to bed.
4. Create a bedtime routine
Especially during times such as the ones we are currently experiencing, the limits between personal and professional space and time, are blurred (working and studying remotely, etc), and so it is essential that we set boundaries between our work and leisure time and space. By being available 24/7 we are simply undermining our health.
*Set a specific time for going to bed and for waking up, even on weekends, allowing for some flexibility.
*Avoid having serious discussions that may cause emotional tension, around bedtime.
*Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, or consumption of food or drinks, right before you go to bed.
*Meditate, take a relaxing bath or do some stretching exercises.
5. Learn how to deal with insomnia
Worrying about whether we will be able to sleep, is probably more harmful than actual lack of sleep. When thoughts are storming through our minds once we go to bed, it means that we haven’t given them proper attention during the day.
Anxiety before sleep usually has to do with what’s in store for the next day, or with what the future holds or what has happened in the past, as well as with worrying about whether we will be able to sleep.
*Make a list of all the important tasks for the next day.
*Keep a gratitude journal, so as to appreciate all the good things in your life.
*If after 20 min you still can’t sleep, it is better to get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.
In case you are having persistent difficulties, contact a specialist who will help you deal with the problems and regain your right to a peaceful sleep!