While we might all be going to bed earlier (like A LOT earlier) and sleeping in longer since going into lockdown, our sleeping patterns seem to be suffering, rather than benefitting, from the forced extra time in bed. But if we're in bed by 9pm, and setting our alarms for an hour later to make up for much shorter commute, why are we still in need of a nap by 10am?
There are a few reasons you're not getting that quality sleep you thought you would. Number one on the list? Stress. And we're not just talking about the psychological effects of worrying about your financial situation, your health in the middle of a pandemic, your loved ones' health and the future—physical changes can also increase your bodies stress levels. Yes, we're talking about all booze you've been drinking, not to mention the comfort eating, less physical activity and extra caffeine because you're so damn tired all the time.
The brain doesn't distinguish between the origin of stress, all it registers is an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which keeps you up, alert and wired when the world’s sound asleep.
Think you can’t train yourself to switch off and chill out in the midst of a pandemic? Guess again. Sleep Specialist Olivia Arezzolo hit us up with four easy ways to ditch the insomnia and train our bodies to consistently get a good night's sleep.
Cut Out Your Overexposure To Blue Light
It's been said a million times before, but blue light from our electronic devices is by far the number one culprit when it comes to disrupted sleep patterns these days. In fact, studies have shown that blue light stimulates the brain to be awake in exactly the same way coffee does. And with the majority of us currently working longer hours from home, bingeing more Netflix than ever and constantly scrolling through news feeds for COVID-19 updates, overexposure to it is worse than ever.
In addition to stimulating the brain to keep you awake, blue light also suppresses the secretion of melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy) for up to 90 minutes until after you’ve disconnected from the light sources—which is exactly why your brain is buzzing after your late night social media scroll.
Alongside devices, blue light even comes from your ceiling lights and outside lights too, so if you’re really struggling switching off even after logging off, it could mean that ‘Night Mode’ is not enough. Arezzolo’s suggestion? “If you work somewhere with next to no natural light source, get 100% blue light blocking glasses. They protect your eyes from absorbing artificial light (anything that isn’t sunlight) alongside harmful rays and have options for prescription and non-prescription lenses. Given that you’ll be sleeping for a third of your life, it’s a no brainer. “
Stick To A Regular Bedtime Routine
No doubt you're currently going to bed earlier than ever before, with no social excursions, long commutes or gym visits to keep you from sliding between the sheets by 9pm every night. But what about waking up? Sleeping in until 8am and rolling out of bed just in time to log in to your inbox is probably doing you more harm than good—contrary to what you might think, too much sleep every night can leave you just as groggy as not getting enough. Set yourself a regular sleep routine, both for hitting the hay and waking up, with just eight to nine hours in between. Going to bed and waking up at around the same time each day will also help train your brain to sleep during those hours, and you'll soon find it's easier to both get to sleep and wake up in the morning.
Further to this, if you're laying down only to scroll Instagram for a few hours, you may struggle to fall asleep when you do finally close your eyes. Make an effort to disconnect from your devices and start the process of winding down well before bedtime—even if you switch to reading a book before falling asleep.
Take A Magnesium Supplement Before Bed
Evidence suggests that by taking magnesium daily, you can reduce feelings of anxiety by 31%. How? Magnesium regulates how your body responds to stress: there is a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol, which contributes to that wired, anxious, and overly alert feeling we get when we can’t switch off. This is the key reason why health professionals often utilise magnesium supplementation for anxiety, insomnia and, in some cases, even depression.
Make Your Bedroom A Sleep-Worthy Sanctuary
What’s happening in your bedroom is fundamental to good sleeping habits; essentially, you need to ask yourself if the space is promoting or reducing stress? A messy, disorganised room, where you engage in stimulating activities like work, enhances feelings of anxiety as soon as you see it.
Conversely, a clutter free ‘zen zone’, reserved for endorphin-spiking activities such as relaxation, sleep and sex—which activate opioid receptors in the brain that help reduce pain, and promote feelings of well-being—encourage calmness. Your bed is also important—maybe it's time to switch out those hand-me-down sheets for some 1000-thread count luxury linen and get a new pillow while you're at it. These indoor plants are ideal for helping you get to sleep, and make sure you've got the temperature and lighting just right too.
In addition to ensuring your bedroom is free of clutter, try using a lavender diffuser in the bedroom to quite literally trigger your brain to recognize that it’s time to switch off.
If staying awake until 9pm is your problem, try turning your lounge room into a home theatre.
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Image credit: Jay Wennington