But how many of us actually achieve the Holy Grail of eight hours of delicious slumber every night? The Coronavirus pandemic has thrown our sleep patterns out of kilter. Many of us are finding it difficult to get to sleep, once we finally go to sleep, we wake up again and can’t get back to sleep, and to add to that, we are experiencing vivid dreams like never before. Research is underway, including by an international group of researchers from the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford who are investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sleep and daily rhythms in adults.
But do not despair. There are many ways to help reset your sleep patterns, and if the sales of neuroscientist Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep are anything to go by, it’s become something of an obsession. Over 10 million copies of his book have been sold since it was published in 2017.
Walker identifies that 40% of us are morning people, 30% are night owls, and the rest of us are somewhere in between. Teenagers have a sleep cycle all of their own, keeping them up into the early hours and asleep until late brunch.
His solutions to getting enough zeds include:
- Cut down on nicotine, alcohol and caffeine.
- Ensure you get some exposure to sunlight – a daily walk or run makes total sense.
- Don’t use your bed as a desk or work station, tempting as it may seem.
- Make a routine and stick to it, so wake at the same time every day and go to bed at the same time.
- A hot bath (or shower) can help as the reduction in temperature afterwards will help you feel tired.
- Your bedroom should be kept cool.
- If you wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep, don’t lie there tossing and turning for hours on end. Give it twenty minutes and if you are still awake, get up and read or listen to a talking book until you feel tired again.
One more tip: don’t read Why We Sleep at bedtime. Some of the information in it could give you nightmares! Getting a better night’s sleep is really worth putting some time and energy into. Here are some ideas to get your started:
Dress for bed
Find a pair of pyjamas or nightdress that make you feel good (and look good). We are loving the retro sixties vibe of the teenage Elizabeth Harmon’s character in the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit.
Treat your skin while you sleep with a hydrating treatment. We love skincare brand Aesop’s Sublime Replenishing Night Masque all the more because they are a B-Corp.
Grow your own tea garden
Caffeine-free herbal teas are great as part of your relaxing bedtime routine. By all means, go for a camomile tea bag, but what about growing your own herbs so you can pick them fresh each day, or dry them yourself for the winter months? Lavender, rose petals and camomile flowers all make calming bedtime companions. Read about how to grow your own herbal tea garden here.
If growing your own seems like too much effort, check out Wilder Botanics. Founded by a naturopath and herbalist, these infusions are the next best thing to growing your own.
Get in the zone
We would all love someone to sing soothing lullabies, but how about trying out one of the range of apps that will play white noise and soothing sounds to help you switch off your racing thoughts? Sleep Sounds: White Noise is one of a whole genre of apps, that will play you soothing sounds to lull you off to sleep. Choose from 36 ambient sounds, from the purring of a cat to the sound of rain on leaves. Download from App store.
Lull yourself to sleep
The British composer Max Richter created an eight and a half hour piece of music inspired by circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. It’s a lovely ambient experience, and was performed live in front of audiences who were given a bed to lie down and listen to the full eight hours overnight. It is, he says, a “personal lullaby for a frenetic world...a manifesto for a slower pace of existence.”
Experience it yourself here.