Living the dream or dreaming of sleep?
There is no doubt that the pandemic has caused anxiety to surface in a lot people, even those who may not have experienced high levels of stress and anxiety before in their lives. This has led to a disruption in sleep patterns and the quality of sleep that people are getting. With the vaccination roll out in full swing and the roadmap to reopening society laid out, better times are within our reach. But what can you do in the meantime to help you achieve better quality sleep?
Sleep is important for a number of different functions in our bodies as well as key to our overall wellbeing and mental health. We are going to look at each of these in turn and give you some tips on how you can develop a better bedtime routine and relationship with sleep. There are some medical conditions that can contribute to disruptive sleep and it is important that you consult with your GP if you think that you have developed insomnia or other more complex sleep issues.
Most adults need to sleep between 7 and 9 hours an evening, although this will depend a lot on each individual. Here are some of the ways in which good quality sleep benefits us and our lives:
- Improves productivity and concentration
In order to be able to function during the day and enjoy your favourite activities and work well you need enough sleep for your brain to be able to perform the functions related to concentration, productivity and cognition. Stimulating your mind with your favourite activities and hobbies will help you to keep your mind active as well as allowing your mind to feel tired at the end of the day. This will then help to improve the quality and length of your sleep.
- Calorie regulation
There is some evidence that good quality sleep allows us to use the calories that we gain from our food in a healthy way, and we have all had that sluggish feeling that comes with lack of sleep that inevitably leads to snacking on unhealthy foods and drinks. Many people have noticed that their diets have become more unhealthy during the last year as they look for comfort from isolation in food. When it comes to improving your sleep you should try and reduce the amount of sugary foods that you have during the day and reduce caffeinated drinks during the afternoon and the evening.
- Increases energy
Sleep allows our body to process the nutrients that we have gained throughout the day as well as allowing our bodies to heal from the stresses and strains of daily life. It then allows for increased energy, better coordination and better mental functioning the following day. During the last year many of us have become less active during the day, which will have an impact on the quality of your sleep as you may not be tired in the same way as you used to be. It is important to try and get as much exercise as you can. This can simply be ensuring that you get up and have a short walk around your home or garden for a few minutes every hour.
- Reduces risk of heart disease
One of the main risk factors of heart disease is high blood pressure and lack of sleep can cause this to increase as during rest our bodies can regulate our blood pressure much more easily. If you have a medical condition that causes high blood pressure it is important that you see your GP for further advice and support.
- Helps prevent anxiety and depression
Many of us have found that the pandemic has led to feelings of loneliness and social isolation which can be compounded by lack of sleep. It can be a vicious circle in that anxiety and depression can cause insomnia and poor quality sleep and lack of sleep can lead to anxiety and depression. One of the ways in which you can help to combat this is to set yourself a daily routine and to get up at the same time each day, plan some activities that you enjoy, eat well, drink plenty of water and then set yourself a bedtime routine. Whilst we are still navigating our way through the government roadmap out of lockdown, it is important that you stay in touch with friends and family in any way you can, such as WhatsApp and Skype calls. This connection with others helps to improve our mood and helps to reduce the feelings of loneliness and isolation.
During the pandemic many of our residents have been thankful for the community that is built around them, allowing them to keep in touch with their neighbours and reducing some of the loneliness that they have felt being isolated from their families. These friendships have been invaluable and with our new development, ‘The Ribstons’ well underway we are looking forward to watching this community grow further.
- Improves immune system
As sleep helps the body to recover from the day, as well as allowing it to repair and regenerate is inevitable that sleep would play a role in a healthy immune system. In order to fully support your immune system you should ensure that you are getting key vitamins and minerals, as well as eating healthily, getting enough sleep and supporting your mental wellbeing.
Here are our top tips on improving your sleep:
- Get up at the same time every day
- Plan your day and fill it with activities that you enjoy and set yourself small, achievable goals
- Eat healthily and make sure that you stayed hydrated throughout the day
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, this can be a walk around your garden
- Reduce stress by exercising, taking up a hobby and looking at meditation and mindfulness activities to support you
- Set a bedtime routine and stick to it – this might include a bath, reading a book by your favourite author, or other self care activities that you enjoy. You should ensure that you do not use a mobile phone or computer at least an hour before you plan to go to bed.
With spring in its early beginnings, lighter, sunnier days are on the horizon and so too is the new beginning of better times ahead.