Coronavirus and Sleep Patterns

Are you feeling sleep-deprived this winter? Yes, then you have joined over half of the population, who are reporting getting as little as just four hours sleep a night on average. Which is totally shocking and falling very short of the recommended six to eight hours sleep every night. The state of the nation’s sleep has come under scrutiny as more people admit they are unhappy with the quality of their sleep and the effect it is having on their ability to function daily.

According to a major survey commissioned by three of the leading bodies championing sleep, Sleep Station, The Sleep Council and The Sleep Charity. More than 2,700 people took part in the National Sleep Survey to provide an overview of the nation’s sleep during the Covid-19 global pandemic, the biggest UK survey of its kind to date on this subject. And it found that the coronavirus was affecting all aspects of sleep. Nearly four in 10 people (39%) are now going to bed later but also believe that the amount of sleep they get is shorter than normal. Nearly a third (30%) are also waking earlier. Significantly, women find it harder to fall asleep (46%) with men more likely to report no change or slightly longer sleep duration. Nearly three in every 10 people (26%) said waking too early was worse now than before. More than a third (33%) are experiencing more vivid dreams.

Sleeping well is crucial to our physical and mental health and wellbeing. With people experiencing signs of depression and reporting that lack of sleep is impacting on their mood, concentration and how tired they feel in the day, we have been exposed to lots of government advice around diet, exercise and how to look after our mental health during these challenging times. However, we’ve not heard anything concrete around sleep and it has never been more important. Lisa Artis, head of The Sleep Council

Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert who works with The Sleep Council added that millions of Britain’s have been impacted by the coronavirus in some way. The survey findings come amid rising concern that these unprecedented times are causing a surge in sleep issues. A lack of support, or lack of awareness of the help available for those issues, could have a lasting impact on the people of Britain.

The first Lockdown hit us all hard and now we are all back for a re-run. It’s much harder to stick to the routines we have in our usual life’s. No one knows what day it is; bedtimes have become much later and it’s harder to get up in the morning, plus we’re all feeling a little more anxious than normal. We know we should be getting exercise but its not as easy in winter than in summer-time. I have a treadmill at home but it’s still difficult to make myself use this everyday in lieu of walking to work daily. And it’s not just adults, this is also impacting on children. In these extraordinary times, it is fully understandable that sleep patterns may have changed for the worst. Too many of us check emails, social media or browse the internet before bedtime, some of us even use our phones and computers in bed. Over-use of computers and mobile phones is most likely adding to the problems of us not sleeping well.

The Sleep Council have offered the following advice:

  1. Keep regular hours. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, all the time, will programme your body to sleep better. Choose a time when you are most likely to feel sleepy.
  2. Your bedroom should be kept for rest and sleep and it should be neither too hot, nor too cold; and as quiet and dark as possible.
  3. Regular, moderate exercise such as walking can help relieve the day’s stresses and strains. But not too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake!
  4. Caffeine is a stimulant and its effect on sleep is well known – it interferes with falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Try and avoid it 4-5 hours before bedtime; have a hot milky drink or an herbal tea instead
  5. While alcohol initially relaxes you and helps you to nod off, it decreases the amount of time you spend in REM sleep (deep, restorative sleep). Plus, you will find you wake in the night dehydrated and needing the loo
  6. Have a warm bath, listen to some quiet music, do some yoga – all help to relax both the mind and body. Your doctor may be able to recommend a helpful relaxation tape, too.
  7. Blue light inhibits the night-time secretion of melatonin and impacts on sleep latency so avoid screen time at least an hour before bed.

The website https://sleepcouncil.org.uk/ offers a range of helpful advice on improving sleep patterns. Self-care is so important right now, and a good night’s sleep can help so much with the upheavals we are all going through. Reading a book or listening to some relaxing music is going to be more helpful to sleeping that watching the latest news updates. Worrying about the future is natural but we can handle stressful times much better when we are getting enough sleep.

I have replaced my old bedding with a lovely new throw, which is cosy and attractive and this also stops me from siting on my bed to work, which I usually do. If you keep your bedroom for relaxing only particularly as so many people are working from home, this may improve your sleep.

 Look after yourself and Sleep well!

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