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Image / Editorial

How to maintain a good sleep routine during a pandemic

by Lauren Heskin
06th Apr 2020

Have you been struggling to fall asleep and then stay asleep since you began working from home? Here are a few ways to keep up your usual sleep routine during this unusual time

Some of us might be “working from home” rather loosely, some of us might be on reduced working days while others might not be working at all. It can be difficult to find structure during this time, as exercise and shopping become our only real outings and time meanders through the afternoon until suddenly, it’s 3am and you’re watching the original cast of Wicked singing ‘For Good’ on YouTube.

No, just me?

But now is not the time to neglect your sleep routine, now is the time to cling to it like a life raft of sanity in this completely bonkers world. With little else to give legitimate structure to our day, sleep is the one thing guarding our mental wellbeing right now — don’t let it falter.

This, of course, is easier said than done. You can say “one more episode?” as many times as you like now, because you don’t have to get up at 7am. But as many of you are now realising, twiddling your thumbs at 3am or waking in a sweat from a strange dream is no fun.

These signs mean that your body is out of kilter, it’s not sure when it’s supposed to be sleeping and so it is not sleeping deeply at all. Instead, your body is stuck in a light REM cycle, where you have the most vivid dreams but you don’t fall into the NREM stage where our deepest and most invigorating sleep occurs.

To help realign your sleep routine, the first thing you need to do is set that alarm and actually get up with it. A good sleep is as much about how you start your day as how you end it. While you might feel you have to go to bed at a certain hour, you might not be sleepy at that time, especially if you are not using as much energy as you typically would when you’re out and about in the world. 

Instead, place your focus on getting up time. If you give yourself a regular rising time (and I don’t mean a wake up and snooze time, I mean a getting out of bed and into the shower time), it will naturally set your bedtime, because you’ll get tired. It’ll also allow your body to settle into a rhythm, which means you’ll sleep sounder and wake less during the night because your body knows it has a set time frame in which to sleep.

Letting your body know you’re preparing for bed is helpful too. This is known as a wind down period. Maybe you’ve gotten back into knitting or jigsaw puzzles during this odd time, or perhaps you’ve finally picked up that book you’ve been meaning to read. Choose one hobby (that doesn’t involve a screen) to wind down to every night before bed. This will let your body know it’s preparing to sleep and the more repetitive you are with it, the better your body will adjust. The only downside is that you might only get through a few pages of your book each night.

And then, of course, there’s exercise. This is an obvious one but it is even more important during this lockdown time. When your body is physically tired, it craves sleep. So if you can, try and squeeze in more exercise, whether that be online classes or a good run in the park (but no further than 2km away from your home!). Despite what some people say, it doesn’t matter what time of day you do your exercise, just don’t let it interfere with your sleep schedule.

And finally, and this is the one I have to try and heed myself – no napping! Unless you’ve got a newborn, in which case, please sleep when they sleep. Napping isn’t always bad, but in a situation where we’re bored, under-exercised and generally lethargic, it is definitely not a good thing. Napping is great for topping up on sleep when you’re extra tired, after plenty of exercise or jetlag. 

But napping under these circumstances will disrupt the delicate sleep routine you’re trying to build. So if you’re sitting on the sofa and begin to feel a little snoozy, you have to do the thing you absolutely don’t want to, and that’s get up and move around.

Featured image by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Read more: Unusually vivid dreams during the coronavirus pandemic? You’re not alone

Read more: Trouble nodding off? This viral sleeping hack says it can happen in 120 seconds

Read more: Why scent is important to your sleep routine

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