Are You Suffering From CoronaSomnia?
Sleep expert therapist, Natalie Pennicotte-Collier, advises a drug-free approach to getting a good night’s sleep
Sleep and the Pandemic
We’re already a society that has a lot of trouble with sleep in general, but we’re in a situation where the amount of anxiety and stress caused by the Coronavirus is making things worse, causing an epidemic of ‘Coronasomnia’. We are all on edge and often the only time we get to make ‘sense’ of the public health crisis, news, politics and the evolving pandemic crisis is when we hit the pillow.
Any type of stress is often the main trigger for insomnia but the pandemic means we’re stuck at home more which can cause further complications, as the light-based cues for wakefulness are disrupted. Getting out and about in the sunlight helps us keep our circadian rhythm on schedule.
Many people are experiencing more intense dreams than usual too as a result of the way in which our brains are processing everything. These stressful dreams can result in even more anxiety-ridden waking hours.
The Importance of Sleep
As we all know sleep is critical to physical health and effective functioning of the immune system. It’s also a key promoter of emotional wellness and mental health, helping to beat back stress, depression, and anxiety. Sadly, far too many of us are failing to get the required amount of quality sleep needed to perform at our peak and achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves. But there is help at hand.
Whether you’ve had sleeping problems before COVID-19 or if they’ve only come on recently, there are concrete steps that you can take to improve your sleep during this global pandemic. Did you know, for example, that the NHS’s first line for insomnia recovery is talking therapy? So learn to actively acknowledge your ‘natural reaction’ stress & anxiety and schedule time to unwind & rest way before bedtime… bottling it up will corrupt your sleep so seek stress reduction. It really is crucial for your sleep health.
The Importance of Light
It’s safe to say we’ve all tried the techniques everyone talks about such as no electronics an hour before bed, a warm bath before bed and a temperate room temperature, a cup of chamomile tea… the list goes on, but a key aspect to consider is your environmental home lighting.
Research carried out by the General Services Administration, the largest landlord in the USA, tried to establish whether designing more daylight into buildings made any difference to the health of those working inside them. They assessed the mood and sleep of workers in three buildings that had been designed with daylight in mind, and one that hadn’t taken light into consideration at all.
Staggeringly, those exposed to bright morning light between 8am and noon took on average 18 minutes to fall asleep at night, compared to 45 minutes in the low light exposure group. They also slept around 20 minutes longer too.
Getting outside in the morning boosts your sleep quality more than anything else. Pre pandemic the average western worker was only getting 1 hour 24 minutes outside. When you start to realise every cell in your body has a circadian clock, we are supersensitive to the power of daylight, so spend as much time out of doors as you feasibly can – ideally before midday for improved sleep quality .
Instead of trying to teach people to control their thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories, Mindfulness for Insomnia (MBCT) teaches people to notice, accept, and embrace them. I strongly believe that acceptance of insomnia rather than an effort to control it is the key to recovering from it because sleep is a natural biological process that can’t be controlled; in fact, the more you try to do so, the further away it goes in your mind and feels like a stressful challenge.
Our sympathetic nervous system is on overdrive with all that’s going on and that is why people are having trouble sleeping. We need to do things that relax. While many people think exercise helps, timing is everything. At night, a person’s core body temperature drops and dips over the course of the night and when you exercise, you elevate your core body temperature, so ideally it should be done in the morning (or at least three hours before bed) in bright natural daylight.
Break the Habit of Doomscrolling
Limit exposure to the news and social media. In a time like this it is easy to lose hours staring at screens, watching as things unfold and change. However, it is not going to help your anxiety or stress related insomnia. Instead, decide how much time each day you’re going to allow yourself for updates. For example, 15 minutes of news in the morning and 15 in the afternoon. Also ensure you’re limiting your time scrolling on your phone through social media. Make sure you only look at trusted resources, select a couple and limit yourself to these only.
The 8pm Rule
A powerful reframe is to consider your evening after 8pm as the healing recovery zone. Try and make sure your behaviour and habits after this time follow a pattern of reduced light, paying more attention to your breath, no caffeine or alcohol, doing something you enjoy, having a bath and making sure your bedroom is dark and ready to receive you for sleep. You can also try a super useful 10 minute Body Scan (click here to try)
Sleep Health Supplements
Most people understand they should support an episode of stress- related insomnia with magnesium (taken at night). But you should not neglect your Vitamin D intake to boost sleep quality and the immune system in general. I also love KLORIS CBD oil and BetterYou DLux+ Vitamin D+K2 Oral Spray.
This pandemic will pass, but addressing your sleep problems with proactive behaviour changes will pay dividends long into a healthy future.
For more help and advice on sleep, visit Mindtonictherapy.com and follow Natalie on Instagram @Natalie_PerformanceMindCoach
Natalie will be hosting the UK’s first Sleep Optimisation Retreat at Yeotown from 4-8 November 2020.
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