What came first, the chicken or the egg? A rough nights sleep, or an anxious day? During these uncertain times it is hard to tell. Worries about cashflow, mortgages, customer numbers and who will or won’t catch the virus. Could everything be wiped away with a lockdown or Corvid 19?
You could be forgiven for not having a clue which came first, or even caring for that matter. All you know is your head is in a spin, your heart is pounding like mad and you could really do with a good nights sleep.
How do we cope?
Down the coffee or chug back another tea, chase it with some sugary cereal or toast with lashings of jam and out the door (or to the home isolated office). Top it up with chocolate, more caffeine and maybe some wine later. Go through the rapid fire thoughts “what if, could I, should I, avoid those calls, ignore those emails”. Evening comes flying round with more wine, more food, more worry and off to bed, for some looking at the ceiling, counting sheep, weird dreams and waking at 3 or 5am. The sun is up and ground hog day is back!
Shutdown, Meltdown or get out of town?!
When you face extreme tiredness and anxiety your mind is doing one vital task and very quickly……can you get through the day and how? It runs though three options.
Shutdown is when you pull up the duvet, sit in front of Netflix or (when you could) pop to the pub on your own all day. It is your minds strategy of hiding away and giving up. As a parent or business owner, this option is often quickly ruled out.
Meltdown is when you get emotional. You could have a cry, a shout, kick the cat or dog, stomp about. It is the minds way of trying to get some assistance. If this isn’t an option, or isn’t working, it won’t linger there long before embarking on option three.
Get out of town (fight or flight). You adrenalise, caffeinate, eat, drink, rush about using the reserves you have left. Cortisone and adrenaline pump through your body. This will get you through the day with a surge of anxiety, some anger and lots of overthinking. Which in turn leads to fatigue, over tiredness and being on edge all the way to bedtime and guess what, you don’t sleep! Around and around you go.
Getting off the roundabout.
“What can we do about it?” I hear you say? Well the good news is….quite a bit. Sleep can be helped through your mind, body and bed(room)! Here are 15 tips for getting more quality sleep and in turn, less anxiety.
“My mind is racing. Busy day tomorrow!”
Write your todo list when you finish work. This way you’re not thinking about the list when you are preparing to sleep. Keep a notepad by the bed, for those ‘one last thing’ notes, but don’t add them to your todo list till the morning. This is a must when working from home.
“Why am I still awake?!”
Frustration and anger build as you toss and turn, constantly aware you are awake, producing anti-sleep stress hormones. Say to yourself “I don’t mind if I sleep or not, at least I’m getting a nice rest”. Sleep comes quicker when the mind is quiet and calm.
“I’m an awful sleeper, up all night”
So if you keep telling yourself that you will be awake all night or waking up early what is your mind going to do? See what happens when you change your focus and your words, for a relaxing sleep all the way through the night.
“It’s such an inconvenience!”
A client once said “It takes up too much time. I just want it out of the way so I can carry on working”. In the midst of the crisis, we will be tempted to cut the one thing we can control.
Value sleep. Look forward to it. How much can you get done when you are refreshed, recharged and ready to go?
“If I drop off now, that’s seven hours….”
Everyone has their own number of hours in mind. Some live on 6, others 8 or 9. Whatever the figure, add on more. This takes the pressure off your mind to go to sleep quickly and builds in a safety margin for kids, pets or postmen waking you up early.
“I’m up in half an hour, won’t drop off now!”
If you wake in the night don’t look at the clock. If it’s close to the alarm going off, your mind can start planning the day. Hide the clock from view. If you wake, trick your mind “only 5am, back to sleep!”. Even that 30 mins can be a big help.
“I can’t wait to get all cozy in bed….”
Everyone has a different preference to the temperature in their homes and bedrooms.
Studies show that your body temperature drops 1-2 degrees during sleep. By going to bed slightly cooler than normal (16-18c), you are paving the way for a good nights sleep.
“Let there be light”
Studies show our natural body clock is affected by daytime sunshine or artificial bright light device or bulbs.This improves sleep quality, duration, and daytime energy, especially if you have severe sleep issues or insomnia. Even in lockdown, eating breakfast by the window can help.
“I can’t see a thing in here!”
Just as day and bright light wakes us during the day, darkness signals the brain to produce sleep hormones. The darker the room the better. A gap in the curtain, light from a phone, computer or clock can disrupt sleep.
“Stop wriggling! Get your paws off!”
A study found that 53% of pet owners and 80% of parents have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Dogs & kids can be bed hogs & bad sleepers. Everyone needs their own space, so keep the bed just for you! This is especially important while we are isolating.
“One more email. Look, a cat video!”
Light during the day is helpful, but at night it can reduce sleep hormones. Reduce the worst (blue light), using: Night mode for phones, apps (F.Lux) for computers and amber tinted glasses. Dim lights and cut off the TV two hours earlier.
“Too late, too early….just right!”
Studies show that eating later than 4 hours before sleep has a negative impact on sleep & the release of sleep inducing hormones. Equally if we’re too hungry we can wake in the night. A small snack (a handful of almonds) 1-2 hours before can help.
“A nice cup of tea & back to bed”
A study showed consuming coffee or tea up to 6 hours before bed significantly worsened sleep quality. Caffeine can stay in your blood for 6-8 hours. Try to avoid any caffeine after 3-4pm. Switch to decaf after that.
“A drop of brandy should do the trick”
It’s true the alcoholic nightcap will help you get off to sleep. However, it will interrupt the REM phase of sleep. This boosts memory, concentration and learning. Without it you will have trouble focusing at work the next day and start the roundabout again.
“One last cigarette before bed”
Non smokers are 4 times more likely to feel rested and refreshed after a full nights sleep compared to smokers. Sleep apnea, asthma, nicotine stimulation and the night withdrawal all contribute to a tired and groggy day.
I always say two things to my clients.
Do not look for perfection – we will never get 100% perfect sleep all of the time. As you can see, so many things can and will affect it. Overall, with improved sleep comes improved state of mind and a better way of coping in the tricky times ahead.
Don’t beat yourself up – when you kick yourself only one person gets hurt! Pat yourself on the back for doing the best you can and do not give up.
Stay safe everyone and sleep tight.