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How to get a good night's sleep

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Updated 2nd June 2020 - We recommend the coronavirus page on the NHS website for more up to date information.

If you’ve found your sleep disrupted since the UK entered lockdown, you’re not alone. In a recent survey by The Sleep Council almost half of respondents claimed that they were finding it harder to fall asleep, with the vast majority of those affected explaining that this was due to concern around the current situation.

But it’s not just worry over the COVID-19 pandemic keeping us awake – lockdown restrictions are also playing a part. Many of us are staying inside all day, and as a result doing less exercise, spending more time in front of screens, and drinking more alcohol and caffeine – all of which can contribute to disrupted sleep.

To help you feel more rested and energised, we’ve put together some simple tips for a good night’s sleep.

Create a sleep routine and stick to it

Where possible, get into the habit of getting up and going to bed at the same time each day – even if you’re not working. Our bodies have an internal body clock that can adapt well if given a routine to follow.

Keep in mind that most of us need between six and nine hours of sleep each night, and plan accordingly. Try to maintain your routine even on weekends, and don’t compensate for a bad night’s sleep by napping or having an extended lie-in as this can throw off the whole schedule.

Exercise every day

Exercise is a great way to de-stress, unwind and tire yourself out, which is why you should incorporate it into your daily routine if you’re having trouble sleeping. Just remember not to exercise vigorously right before you go to bed as this may keep you awake longer.

Even with the current lockdown restrictions in place, you should be able to exercise every day. If you’re able to get outside, try going for a jog or a long walk or cycle. If you can’t get outside you can use a free online workout video to do some yoga, weightlifting or cardio in your home. Many of these videos are tailored towards beginners who don’t have exercise equipment.

We’re running a home fitness series with health influencer Chessie King – check out Chessie's videos here.

Cut back on caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant, which is why it’s great at waking us up in the morning. If you’re drinking a lot of tea, coffee, soft drinks or energy drinks throughout the day, your caffeine consumption is probably disrupting your sleep.

If possible, avoid caffeine altogether in the afternoon and evening. Switch to decaf alternatives, caffeine-free soft drinks and herbal teas. The best drink for a good night’s sleep is something caffeine-free and sugar-free, like peppermint or camomile tea.

Make sure your bedroom is a restful environment

To be comfortable and conducive to sleep, your bedroom needs to tick a few different boxes. It should be kept at a comfortable temperature – neither too warm or too cool – and should have curtains or blinds on the windows that keep it dark when you’re sleeping.

If possible, your bedroom should be very quiet. This means you might want to reposition appliances in neighbouring rooms to avoid sound coming through the walls. You may also want to stop pets from sleeping in your bedroom if they make a lot of noise during the night.

If your bedroom is currently doubling as a home office, you may be finding it difficult to switch off once you go to bed. Try positioning your bed away from your work area or covering your desk with a screen so that you can draw a line between home-life and work-life at the end of the day.

Unwind before trying to sleep

It’s recommended that you spend at least one hour “unwinding” before you try to sleep. This will mean different things to different people, but essentially the idea is to switch off from the day’s activities and start preparing your brain and body for sleep.

Pre-bedtime activities include:

  • Taking a warm (but not hot) bath
  • Doing some light stretching (but not vigorous exercise)
  • Having a massage
  • Trying some stress-relieving breathing techniques
  • Writing about your day in a diary or jotting down a to-do list for tomorrow
  • Reading or listening to an audiobook

It’s best to avoid using electronic devices such as TVs, laptops, tablets and phones during this time, as it’s believed the blue light they emit they can disrupt sleep.

Use earplugs and an eye mask

If the environment you’re sleeping in is noisy or too bright, using earplugs and an eye mask can be really helpful. Alternatively, if you prefer not to sleep in total darkness you can try using a night-light. A relaxation soundtrack (on a timer) will also help if you find that you sleep better with ambient noise.

Try sleep medication

In addition to the above, you can try taking over-the-counter medication such as Nytol, which is only for short term use please speak to your pharmacist. If you’re experiencing more severe insomnia, it’s worth contacting your GP to talk about your symptoms. You can also talk to a member of our pharmacy team about treatment options available they’ll be able to find the most suitable product for you.

References

www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/10-tips-to-beat-insomnia
www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/how-to-get-to-sleep/
www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/sleep/sleep-hygiene.pdf