From anxiety about getting COVID and navigating the blurred work/home divide to keeping home schooling kids motivated and grappling with job losses, it’s little wonder that 40 per cent of us say that the had a negative impact on our sleep.
On top of that, a recent Freedom survey of 1,000 Australians found a whopping 73 per cent are reporting less than ideal sleep, with most clocking only 6.6 hours’ shut-eye a night.
Dr Moira Junge, CEO of the Sleep Health Foundationsays a lot of our COVID-disrupted sleep had to do with our bodies receiving mixed “sleep cues” due to increased time at home and not always honoring our body clocks.
“Sometimes you wouldn’t go out all day and those normal light cues and social cues weren’t had,” she explains.
“There was also a lot of loneliness, distress and uncertainty and we know that those are the types of things that produce poor sleep.”
And once we’ve developed poor sleep habits, they can easily stick, so with World Sleep Day upon us, we asked Dr Junge to share how we can reclaim some quality shut-eye to pandemic undo any damage the has caused.
Move first thing
When you’ve had some sleepless nights, it’s tempting to doze until the last possible minute you have to get up.
But Dr Junge says that if you’re in a poor sleep rut, you need to start re-training your body clock, and the best way to do that is to exercise outside first thing.
“Even though it’s hard, you have to get out into the light – doing 20 minutes of exercise outdoors in the morning will help enormously,” she says.
“Bright light suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormone, and exercise gets your body temperature up which does an enormous amount of good for your body clock.”
At the end of the day, dimming lights and switching off handheld screens at least 30 minutes before bed will help your body release melatonin to enable you to easily drift off.
“Be very aware of light-dark messages and understand the affect natural and artificial light has on our sleeping patterns,” Dr Junge says.
“When the brain recognises darkness, melatonin will come.”
Set yourself up for success
According to Dr Junge, we can’t underestimate the importance of creating the right conditions for sleep.
Use dark curtains or eye masks to block out light and earplugs to block out noise and invest in a comfortable mattress (a choice option is the luxurious Freedom Celestial Mattress), to ensure you’re accessing cloud-like conditions.
“We want to minimise external disruption, making sure our bedroom environment is quiet and dark,” Dr Junge says.
“We also need to have boundaries in place for kids and pets to stop them disturbing us in the night.”
Don’t fret in bed
Our brains take a lot more cues from our environment than we give them credit for, and Dr Junge says it’s crucial that we prevent an association developing between our bed and racing thoughts.
For that reason, she suggests that if you’ve been wide awake with churning thoughts for 20 minutes, get out of bed and move to the loungeroom to quietly read or watch TV until sleepiness sets in.
It sounds counterintuitive and a likely recipe for next-day tiredness, but it’s a great “long game” play for avoiding lasting sleep problems.
“The aim is to disrupt the association that your bed is somewhere you don’t sleep well,” Dr Junge explains.
Trust sleep to come
If you’re living in a high stress situation, it’s natural your sleep will suffer and that it’s okay to be somewhat accepting of that.
“If you are in a challenging time, you might have to shrug your shoulders a little and think, ‘I’m not going to fret about getting my seven hours tonight – I’m going to have faith that sleep will return if I don’t ‘t panic and stick to the core principles of getting good sleep,” says Dr Junge.
“The cruel irony is that if you put too much ‘sleep effort’ in, it backfires. You can’t push too hard for sleep or you can become anxious and alert and hyper aroused.”
So don’t be too hard on yourself! Setting up a good sleep environment should help take the pressure off.
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