As we all housebound for the most part except for essential workers, carers and the emergency services,
It is important to understand that the keys for optimal sleep, and why so so many of us may already be suffering sleep’s diminishing quality because of Covid-19.
Sleep is your life support system, it helps every cell in your body and brain to renew and to be ready again for another day. Sleep is the elixir of life, not an inconvenience forcing you to stop streaming something that you could watch tomorrow very easily.
Sleep is your secret weapon increasing your immunity to the coronavirus. Sleep scientists recommend eight hours of sleep to optimize your body’s immune system.
Tip 1. Regularity is king.
It is important to go to bed at the same time and wake at the same time each day. This helps to anchor your sleep. We should all be trying to get eight hours of sleep each night. One in two adults is getting by with only six hours sleep a night, this has a negative effect on the autoimmune system. This is not the time to be under sleeping, the aim of eight hours sleep a night will boost your immunity, increased feelings of well-being, give you more energy, and reduce reactive behaviour caused by being sleep deprived.
Tip 2. Allow your body to chill out.
In order to see well, it is important to allow your body temperature to drop by 1°C when you get into bed. Taking a hot bath or even a shower before bed can help with your body’s temperature drop combined with a clean feeling! The bedroom temperature should lower during the night from bedtime to between 16 and 18°C ideally. If the bedroom is too warm, don’t expect to sleep very well.
Tip 3. Darkness is essential for a good night of sleep. Good curtains, blackout blinds are all helpful to achieve this, however finding a good sleep eyemask which can be ordered and delivered to your door can also help greatly. Earplugs can also be very useful, particularly if you are working shifts in the emergency services, for example. My favourite earplugs are Moldex Spark Plugs 7800 they knock out 35db of sound.
Tip 4. Reduce the use of all stimulants before bed, such as coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks. Caffeine lasts up to 12 hours in the body, (it has a half life of six hours). Therefore the last shot of caffeine should be 12 hours before you plan to go to sleep.
Alcohol, although very enjoyable for those that drink, in fact reduces sleep quality, fragments sleep architecture, reducing deep sleep greatly, increasing waking in the night and of course snoring, (because it causes swelling of the throat).
The use of nicotine in tobacco, or even in the vape, acts as a stimulant if used just before bed making deep sleep less likely and increasingly fragmented dreaming.
Tip 5. In the daytime, make sure you get enough daylight sunlight as this helps to set the body clock better. Choose to take your exercise or regular walk each day in the first half of the day and ideally not at night. However taking regular breaks to step outside and look at the sky and spring unfolding in the fresh air is an essential part of health and well-being.
And in the evenings it is important to understand the circadian rhythm – that nearer to bedtime light is less and less… Leading your body and your mind towards sleep. Therefore it is not helpful to be using bright screens, smart phones and computers before bed, firstly because of the light.
Secondly, because these devices stimulate your mind, making it harder to unwind and fall asleep. Racing mind syndrome is not helped by these devices. Instead, create a buffer zone before bedtime to unwind, lower the lights, relax, read or even meditate.
A simple breathing exercise of breathing in for four seconds, holding the breath for four seconds and exhaling the breath for eight seconds; repeating five or six times will help you to begin to relax. Although there are many ways to breathe and relax and to meditate.
Tip 6. Avoid disturbing news late at night on the media. Learn to adjust the latest news to first thing in the day.
Tip 7. Avoid going to bed with a mind full of worries, learn to empty them out onto a piece of paper one by one, and then leave them there until the morning. If you do wake in the night, instead of being annoyed, find your most comfortable position and focus on relaxing your body and slowing your breathing down.
If you really can’t sleep, get out of bed and going do something boring in very low light. Avoid electronics and stimulating things to read. Perhaps make a light snack of the soup or water and then go back to bed.
Tip 8. As we get ready for the clocks to go forwards with GMT Greenwich Mean Time at 1 am on Sunday, (unless it is canceled by Boris), start going to bed earlier and if possible stay in bed for 15 to 30 minutes longer so that the loss of an hour’s sleep is less damaging to your immune system. More sleep not less.
If anything, we need to be getting more sleep, not less, during the coronavirus pandemic. Whether you’re sleeping or resting or dozing, the beneficial effects are immense, and you will always feel more refreshed when you make time for your sleep. Even 30 minutes more sleep a night boosts your immune system dramatically. But when it comes to rest, sleep is always best!
Max Kirsten The Sleep Coach @thesleepcoach