Sleep – the Impact of the Pandemic
By Joanna Hogan, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist for Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia. This is a post I wrote for Springbank Clinic in April 2021 based on my experience of working with adults and children with insomnia over the 10 years including at the NHS Insomnia Unit at UCLH.
Sleep is as crucial to our health as nutrition and exercise but falling
asleep, staying asleep, and getting enough sleep can feel like a struggle.
Sleep issues have become even more prevalent since the pandemic.
Unfortunately, unlike the other challenges we can be faced with, the
harder we try to sleep well, the less well we are likely to sleep.
Recently published surveys (Jahrami et al, 2021 and Perez-Carbonell et
al, 2020, Zubair et al, 2020) found that six out of ten people reported
their sleep as getting worse since the first lockdown in March 2020.
50% said their sleep had been more disturbed than usual. Two in five
said they’d slept fewer hours per night than usual. Two in five also
reported more vivid dreams than usual. Three in ten said they had slept
longer but felt less well rested.
These changes are largely attributed to the psychological impact of the
pandemic on sleep, in particular the increase in stress, anxiety and low
mood. In addition to COVID-19-related worries, there have also been
relationship worries, loneliness, financial worries or work-related
stress. In addition, huge changes in our usual routines have affected
our sleep as well as our diet, alcohol intake and activity levels which
may also reduce the amount and quality of sleep we get.
So how do we improve our sleep? I recommend the following
tips for improving sleep during the pandemic and as we come out of it.
Try and get out of bed at a similar time each morning.
Try and get daylight within two hours of waking up to try and reset your body clock. If our brain knows when it's time to wake up it will also work out when it's time to go to sleep.
Try to take regular brief breaks from work or study. Even two minutes getting up and moving about can help reduce stress levels.
Try and keep bed only for sleep and intimacy rather than for study, work or screen-use. This will your brain to make the connection between bed as a place for sleep rather than bed as a place to worry, work or think.
If you find you are worrying when you get into bed have a think about what you are doing during the day that may be contributing to this. It may be helpful for some people to:
Reduce or limit the amount of negative news they are following;
Increase regular exercise. There is strong evidence to suggest that regularly partaking in exercise such as yoga can help to improve the quality and quantity of sleep.
Even if you work or study late make sure you have a wind-down, with dimmed lights and no screens before you get into bed. Even if this means going to be bed a bit later, this will be more helpful for your sleep than trying to go to bed before you have wound day.
If you are still laying awake when you get into bed try some relaxation exercises. Progressive muscle relaxation has been show to be particularly beneficial.
For those who are struggling to improve their sleep CBT for Insomnia
with a qualified BABCP-accredited therapist is the gold-standard
treatment with success rates of over 80%. CBT for Insomnia looks at
the behaviours and thoughts that get in the way of us having a good
night’s sleep and helps us to address these.
If you would like to get help for your sleep you can talk to your G.P. to
ask for an NHS referral or contact Joanna Hogan at Springbank Clinic
or through her website joannahogancbt.co.uk,
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07739 385220.