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Sleep in the time of COVID: Part 1: Struggling to Sleep

My Prescription for Sleep during the lockdown:

 

It can be tempting to relax our regular sleep routine while in lockdown…especially since we are not going to work, or working from home. .But this lack of, or change in routine can sometimes exacerbate insomnia. Many of us barely know what day it is far less the time! We need to try to maintain our normal sleep rhythms.

Many of us are also not able to exercise as we usually would, and our body is missing those endorphins. This coupled with increased anxiety over this crazy situation we are in, can really affect our sleep…and lets face it, when we can’t sleep…we feel even more anxious and crazy! Think about it: The Japanese used to use sleep deprivation as a form of torture!

 

 

As much as possible try to stick to a regular bed time, and still set an alarm for waking up, as well as one for going to sleep

 

Resist the temptation to nap during the day

Exercise in the morning at home and not after 5pm. Exercising too late in the day can make some people feel “reved up”

Watch out for “workout ” drinks and supplements. Many of them contain Caffeine or taurine or “Green tea extract” or “Coffee bean extract” These all are basically stimulants and can keep you up at night!

Avoid Cigarettes especially before bed.  Nicotine is a stimulant.

Try to limit yourself to caffeinated beverages in the morning only, and certainly not after 3pm.

Avoid an alcohol night cap if you are struggling to sleep…alcohol can interrupt our normal sleep patterns

Dinner time is important. Try to eat at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. Going to be too full can increase heartburn which can wake you up at night with pain or a cough. Remember: Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince, and Dinner like a Pauper.

What you eat is also important. Foods high in Tryptophans like Turkey and chicken can help promote good sleep.

 

Practice good sleep hygiene: Ideally the bedroom should be for sleep and sex only….but if you are forced to stay there because you are in isolation then keep a window open, and leave the curtains open during the day to let natural light in.

 

If you are in isolation Try to have a desk and comfortable lounge chair in the bedroom so you resist the temptation to spend all day in bed. 

 

At night, limit noise and increase darkness by using black out curtains or an eye mask and ear plugs if you need to.

 

DO NOT look at any screens like TV, Computer,  phone or tablet an hour before bed. The bright light breaks down our natural melatonin.

 

Have a wind down ritual: A warm shower, doing a crossword or planning what you are going to do/wear  the next day can help your brain understand it’s time for bed.

 

Sometimes medical conditions like depression, anxiety, pain, hot flushes and night sweats and restless leg syndrome can interfere with our ability to fall asleep. If you think you may be experiencing any of these, talk to your Doctor. Further updates will give more information on medical conditions which can affect your sleep.

Certain medications like Steroids and Diuretics are best taken in the morning to avoid interfering with sleep. Another common problem is Migraine tablets or “Multi symptom day tablets” – These sometimes contain caffeine. If they do, try to use these only during the day or use some without caffeine if this affects you. The common decongestant “Phenylephedrine” can also make children and some adults feel “hyper”

 

 

If you are still struggling try two Camomile tea bags in hot water and allow to draw for six minutes. You can add honey to this if you are not Diabetic. Camomile actually works on the same receptors int he brain as sleeping tablets!

 

 

You can also try 5mg of Melatonin, available over the counter, an hour before bed. This has been shown to be even more effective if you are over the age of 55.

Look out for my next update which will be on how to deal with waking up at night.

Night Night and Sleep Tight!