Today is World Sleep Day! It is the perfect occasion to stop and think about our sleeping habits, realizing how much they impact our Mental health and take a step towards improving them.
Sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on your immune system, work productivity, mental well-being, as well as your happiness level. As the famous quote from the American novelist Robert A Heinlein says: "Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more".
Why is COVID affecting our Sleep?
A report from the National Institutes of Health highlighted that insomnia has increased by 37% since the COVID pandemic peak. Some people have given this phenomenon the name "coronasomnia"
Covid has changed our routines dramatically: we are spending too much time online working and communicating with our loved ones and spending less time outside. The long exposure to screens and a lack of natural light exposure lowers our melatonin levels. Melatonin, known as the "sleep hormone", controls and regulates our circadian rhythm, helping us to have a healthy Sleep.
The level of this hormone increases with darkness and is lowered with exposure to light. When we are exposed to natural light, melatonin levels are low during the day and go up at night. We are tricking the brain into not producing melatonin at night when we expose ourselves to the artificial light coming from screen devices, such as laptops, smart-phones or a television. This disrupts our natural Sleep and has consequences on our health.
Anxiety caused by financial worries, job insecurity, and social isolation, among other factors, are also affecting our sleep health. Anxiety can impact us emotionally, mentally and physically. Good quality and quantity sleep can significantly reduce our likelihood of experiencing anxiety therefore it is so important to prioritise this especially during Covid as there are so many things right now that we cannot control so it is good to focus on the "controllables".
Try these 10 tips to have a healthy sleep
1. Cut down on screen time two hours before bed
As we commented above, the blue light caused by screens affects your sleep by lowering your melatonin. Find calming free-screen activities instead, such as reading, taking a relaxing bath, or playing a meditation podcast. If you read online, try to use devices that reduce the blue light, such as the Kindle Paperwhite.
2. Use Sleep Masks
We can control our devices but not our partner's ones or his/her schedule. Besides, sometimes the light pollution comes from outside. In these cases, an Eye Mask is the ideal companion! Make sure that you choose the right one, covering your eyes completely and blocking the light properly. It will allow your body to enter into a deeper sleep.
3. Optimise your bedroom to sleep
Try to keep your room tidy to allow your brain to switch off so it does not have the impression that you have unfinished things to do, or that you are mentally tidying the room or scanning for items you cannot find amongst the mess! If it's possible, don't work in your room so both brain and body associate the room just for sleep. In case you don't have any other option right now, keep all work items out of your vision. The optimal bedroom temperature is 15 - 19 degrees so open the window and let some cool air in if it is warm in the house. It is highly recommended to switch off all your screen devices to avoid blue light: an old-fashioned clock alarm on your bedside table can be the best option to wake you up in the morning. And finally, to give an extra relaxing aura, you can add smells that make you more relaxed and calm. A candle light with lavender scents would be perfect for this or in a spray formula, such as the Twilight Spray from Lush.
4. Wear socks to sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation: "Heating cold feet causes vasodilation—dilation of the blood vessels—which may tell the brain that it is bedtime". This habit is controversial as some people literally can't stand socks on their feet when going to sleep. This 'Sleep with your socks on' tip was suggested on the social media app, TikTok, becoming viral with 2.3million likes. The video started by Dr. Jess who appears as @doctorjesss, saying: 'So let's talk about people that wear socks to bed.' The debate between socks for bed lovers and haters exploded. If you suffer from cold feet and want to try this tip, make sure the socks you choose are not tight-fitting and don't constrict circulation. Find ones made with soft fibres and do pop a comment below so we can learn what your preference is!!!
5. Write your worries away
If you spend time in bed mentally doing many tasks (like, for example, errands to do for the next day or professional goals to achieve), write them out! ! Too many thoughts? Find a single place to contain them. Writing down all the information can help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. It also allows you to improve your focus and productivity levels.
6. Avoid stimulants and eating late at night
Experts recommend waiting at least three hours after you've eaten to go to bed and stop the caffeine intake four to six hours before bedtime.
7. Eat sleep-friendly snacks before sleeping
If you feel hungry before going to sleep, go for sleep-friendly snacks. Going to bed on an empty stomach reduces blood sugar levels and interferes with the body's ability to sleep well. Specific snacks activate your magnesium and melatonin levels, such as almonds, nuts, a glass of warm milk, bananas, kiwis, as well as hummus!
8. Incorporate a relaxing yoga practice into your nighttime routine for a better sleep
Regular exercise during the day can help you to have a night of quality sleep. Doing exercise for 30 minutes every day can make a difference. It is an ally to combat anxiety! There is a lot of research on the benefits of walking through nature or on a beach and being near water. Avoid high-impact workouts two hours before bed because this can have the opposite effect.
For those who can only exercise in the evening, Yoga is the best option. It does not affect your sleep, and many studies have shown that a regular yogic practice reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improving sleep patterns. Yoga is ideal for calming you down before bed and fall asleep easily. The final Pose of Yoga, known as Savasana or Corpse, is perfect for relaxation and falling asleep.If you are interested in knowing more about this practice and how it works, we recommend you read the blog Savasana, Resting Pose, Give yourself a break! by Orla Crosse from Performance Yoga, where you can find the steps to do the pose.
9. Create a bedtime ritual
It is vital to have a good sleep routine by creating bedtime rituals that allow your brain to acknowledge that you are ready to sleep. Similar to how one would do with children. When we are adults, we need bedtime rituals to sleep also. You can incorporate rituals to calm yourself and help you understand that its time to sleep. Try to be consistent and make them always in the same order and around the same time. You can include meditation, reading, having a bath, lighting a candle with a lavender scent, having a particular snack before bed, or turning off all electronic devices into your ritual. Design your bedtime routine to suit your needs and preferences!
10. Try Kocoono™ Weighted Blankets
You can complement these routines with an extra shot of natural relaxation in your body with the help of Kocoono™ weighted blankets. Studies have shown the positive effects of Weighted Blankets (also known as anxiety blankets) on Insomnia: the sleep bout time increasing, as well as a decreasing in movements of the participants, during weighted blanket use. When you put a weighted blanket on yourself, you are gently pressuring your body's pressure points. This technique is known as Pressure Therapy. It activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System, helping you calm and fall asleep. The effect is similar to that of a person who hugs you to calm you down. And, hugs and cuddles have proven to be an effective way to reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and raise oxytocin levels.
Let us know what Sleep Tip resonates with you the most and if you are already implementing one, some or many of the above sleep tips.