Sleep is essential to our mental and physical health, but with the coronavirus outbreak dominating the headlines, for many it’s proving harder and harder to come by.
However, whether you can’t stop scrolling on your phone, or find your mind won’t switch off even when you’re lying in the dark uninterrupted, there are small but effective changes you can make to your day which will improve your chances at nodding off at night.
We asked expert James Wilson, also known as The Sleep Geek, for his five-step plan for getting to sleep when coronavirus anxiety feels overwhelming – here’s his expert advice.
How to get to sleep when you’re suffering from coronavirus anxiety
1. Try and ensure that we have a corona free period before bed, of at least an hour, where you don’t watch the news or listen to programmes about it, or discuss it with your partner or children. Watch or read something light and easy such as something funny, a favourite programme or book you already know that can provide comfort and makes you feel good.
2. If, due to worrying about the coronavirus you are in bed for 30 minutes and not asleep, either as you go to bed, or wake up in the middle of the night, then you need to reset your mind. I find listening to something, a spoken word book, podcast or meditation app, allows the mind to wander and your heart rate to drop. If you sleep alone, then you can do it in bed, If you sleep next to someone I would go into another room and do the above, as them snoozing away soundly will only annoy you and add to your anxiety levels.
3. Keeping a consistent wake up routine will help you fall asleep and stay asleep at night time. I am not saying get up at the same time you would do for work; being at home more may help you develop a work routine that fits with your sleep patterns. This particularly applies to night owls who are often forced to wake earlier than they would want to. If you have a lie in try not to have one that last any longer than an hour and a half, as this could impact on how sleepy you feel at night.
4. If you can do it according to social distancing guidelines, get outside and expose yourself to daylight in the morning, which will help regulate your body clock. Getting outside and doing exercise where possible will help, as it lifts our mood and contributes to us feeling physically tired.
5. We all love a disco nap, and when we have nothing else to do and feel a little more lethargic in the day then the temptation to nap can become overwhelming. If you don’t usually nap during the day then starting now is likely to impact on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. If you are using naps as part of your routine (for example if you are doing shift work or have young children) then try and have then about one or two in the afternoon and limit them to about 30 minutes.