How to sleep better in a time of uncertainty

By Jen Wood

Has your sleep been affected?

I’ve had some difficulty sleeping over the last few weeks. At the start of lockdown my sleep was better, but soon the anxiety of the situation and concerns about my family started to impact my sleep. Many of my friends, family and clients have also been experiencing sleep problems, as general anxiety and frustration about the lockdown situation increases.

It is key to keeping ourselves healthy.

How can we protect our sleep when we know how important it is for our immune response and our mood, as well as emotional regulation? Poor sleep impacts our relationships as we tend to withdraw or be more irritable with others, and connection is also important during this time of prolonged social distancing. If we already feel stressed, poor sleep can feel like we are losing our sanity. It’s vital that we keep ourselves as healthy as possible at the moment, and sleep is key.

Sharing my tips for a better night's sleep

So, what can we do about it? Here are some of the sleep tips that I use and share with my clients:

  • Wind Down. Find an activity that you can do during the second part of the evening which will prepare your body and mind for sleep. i.e. yoga, meditation or stretching.
  • Only get into bed if you are tired. This sound obvious, but it’s important to associate bed with sleep, and not lying awake feeling anxious and frustrated.
  • Get up if you can’t sleep after 20 minutes. Continue with a wind down activity until you feel tired. This is tough at the start, but it’s part of the CBT for insomnia programme which I use with my clients and it re-programmes the brain for sleep.
  • Eat light and early. Eat lighter meals in the evening and avoid eating too late if you can.
  • Exercise, but higher intensity exercise is best earlier in the day, although this is general advice and of course depends on the individual.
  • Have a shower before you go to bed. If you feel stressed you can imagine that you are washing all the stress and anxiety away, preparing you for a good night’s sleep.
  • Have a bath. If you feel physically tense, having a bath with some lavender oil can be particularly soothing.
  • Avoid stimulants that are known to disturb sleep, particularly later in the day (i.e. caffeine, nicotine and alcohol). I’m not sure how well I do with this one!
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool, and as much as possibly keep all devices out of the bedroom.
  • Check your mattress, pillows and duvet. Are they too heavy? It’s good to be cool at night, but obviously not freezing! Comfort is also essential, and I confess to a combination of down and silk pillows.
  • Try a weighted blanket. This was a revelation for me.
  • Magnesium sleep lotion which I rub on the soles of my feet before bed. It seems to help many of my clients too.
  • Practice gratitude before you go to sleep. Write down 3 good things about the day, or even 1. This can rewire our brain.
  • Mindfulness can help us learn to settle our minds and not get involved with our thoughts.
  • Digital detox. Too much media (especially the news) can be overwhelming, especially when our minds are already full. I have had a news and digital detox and have found it very helpful.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. This is great before bed, and I’m sharing a practice with you here.

A good sleep prepares us for a good day, so I hope that implementing some of these strategies will help to boost your energy and mood too. Sweet dreams!

Jen Wood is an emotional wellbeing coach, psychotherapist and wellbeing consultant. She is based at Restoration Yard in Dalkeith Country Park and during the Covid-19 pandemic, is helping us with some of the problems we face from feeling unsettled, to working from home and today, how to sleep better in uncertain times. Jen offers individual wellbeing coaching, therapy and mindfulness sessions via Zoom or by phone. To find out more, visit her website at jenwoodwellbeing.com.

Jen is offering online Mindfulness Meditation (Mondays) classes via Zoom. Also, Jen offers individual wellbeing coaching, therapy and mindfulness sessions via Zoom or by phone. To find out more, head to Jen’s website.

Jen Wood, Wellbeing Consultant, Restoration Yard