Restless Nights? Here’s How to Improve Your Sleep Quality
The Quint DAILY
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The impact the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown has had on every aspect of our lives has been expansive to say the least. Researchers have been busy studying its effect on mental health and wellness, and needless to say, it’s not looking so good.
Fear and anxiety are at an all time high because of the ever-present feeling of uncertainty. Add to this: disrupted schedules, lack of discipline in eating and exercising and added screen time. It’s no surprise that our sleep cycle is irregular and sleep quality is low.
According to recent studies, 60% of people have complained about sleeping less while 70% say that though they might get the 8 hours in, the quality of the sleep is quite poor.
We are facing many challenges right now – sleeping well shouldn’t be one of them. There is a lot of evidence which suggests that a good night’s sleep helps reduce your chance of catching an infection, which may have something to do with the release of melatonin - the sleep hormone which has protective benefits.
Here Are Some Things You Can Do To Improve Your Sleep Quality Right Now:
Try your best to still maintain a routine: Majority of us are still working from home and hence our usual ‘time anchors’ like going to the gym, reporting for work, doing a school drop-off etc., which helped us keep track of the day and maintain a routine, are missing right now. It might be hard and even seem unnecessary to try to maintain a semblance of what your normal routine looked like. Major variations in our routine definitely impact our sleep cycle but also cause stress to us, which again isn’t great for a good night’s sleep. So sticking to a schedule when it comes to waking up, or eating our meals and sleeping is definitely a must – and if you can shower and exercise at a given time regularly too, that would be the cherry on top! Routines make our body feel safe which helps in reducing stress, anxiety and over-thinking.
2. Get some sunlight: Natural light regulates our body’s circadian rhythm, and the absence of it not only affects our sleep timings but also the quality of it. Get as much sunlight as you can, whether it’s by going for a walk, sitting in the sun, or even through open windows.
3. Be mindful of your screen time: Extra screen time at any given day isn’t great – but right now, in the middle of a pandemic, it’s even worse. Given that we are in midst of a lockdown and have almost zero social interactions, it’s easy to see why all of us are glued to our screens, but balance is essential.
The blue light emitted from our devices actively disrupts sleep while a thoughtless 24/7 consumption of social media can have many negative impacts on our mental health.
With limited ways of feeling connected, we are obviously relying on technology to do that and while some of it can be great, it can also cause us anxiety and create a need for immediate gratification which added to the uncertainty we feel right now, creates a lot of anxiety in us. Even going off screen 20 minutes before sleeping and after waking up will help in regulating your circadian rhythm. You can even use apps which help reduce the effect of blue light like Night Owl and Twilight. A social media clean up will help in consuming information more mindfully.
4. Stay connected: In times like these, when there is so much to be uncertain about, it helps when we know there are still people who love us and whom we can rely upon. Take some time out to check on them and to catch up occasionally. It will make you feel secure and loved which automatically reduces stress.
5. Practise acts of kindness: When every article you read is talking about something which is going wrong with the world, it’s hard to imagine that better times will come. One way to do that is to be the good you seek. So look up causes you believe in and donate, send some food to your local shelter – or just make someone smile. Creating positive impact will help reduce the feeling of stress and uncertainty which is negatively influencing our sleep cycle right now.
6. Create a night time routine: Inculcating small habits which help with a good night’s sleep can go a long way in regulating your circadian rhythm and sends your body in a ‘preparing for sleep’ mode when practiced consistently.
- Ayurveda lays emphasis on the importance of washing our feet and massaging them before sleep. Washing them helps our body to cool them, and a good massage along our pressure points on the foot releases stress, muscle tension, and sends love to the corresponding organs - all of which leads to a deeper sleep.
- Cashews, apart from being incredibly delicious, are also amazing for our brain. They are a great source of B6, magnesium and protein, and have also been linked to reduction of anxiety, stress and even mild depression. Having 8 to 10 cashews at bedtime, as it is or with a cup of milk with some cardamom in it, will regulate the production of feel-good hormones like serotonin, making your breathing more uniform, and will calm your mind promoting good sleep.
(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist and reader and lover of red velvet cupcakes.)
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