We all know that lockdown has played havoc with both our mental and physical health. But did you know that a key factor in maintaining a healthy mind and body is getting a good night’s sleep?
Over the last year, many of us have experienced sleep problems. Whether you’ve had problems falling asleep, waking up throughout the night, waking earlier, or sleeping longer than normal, I can almost guarantee that at some point during the last year, your sleep pattern has been a little bit all over the place.
In August 2020, 5 months into the pandemic, within a ten-day window, I moved house and was made redundant. Unsurprisingly, that’s when my sleep problems began.
Going through those two life events whilst also trying to deal with the challenges the pandemic was throwing at every Tom, Dick and Harry, it was enough to turn the calmest person into a stressed-out living nightmare.
By Christmas, I could count on one hand the number of good night’s sleep I had had since August.
I wasn’t even having problems falling asleep. I would fall asleep quickly, but from around 2 am, I would wake up constantly until daylight. I would toss and turn all night, waking up every time I turned over or heard a noise. I might only be awake for a few seconds before turning over and falling back to sleep again, but the constant disturbed sleep was starting to take its toll.
Tried & Tested
On the surface, I was doing all the right things. I hadn’t touched alcohol, except on special occasions, for over two years. I don’t drink coffee, and I get a good dose of fresh air and exercise everyday on my daily walks.
When I realised my sleep deprivation was becoming a problem, I started to look at other lifestyle changes I could make to see if that would help improve my sleep debt.
These are just some of the things I tried:
- Eating earlier to avoid going to bed with a full belly
- Drinking a mug of hot chocolate before bed
- Spraying sleep spray on my pillow
- Keeping my bedroom window open at night
- Taking a relaxing bath
- Shutting my cat out of my bedroom in case subconsciously she was keeping me awake
- Daytime yoga practice
- Reading a book
- Limiting my screen time
- Burning lavender oil.
I tried everything I could think of.
I was on the brink of giving up and going to see my doctor.
But then during one of my sleepless nights, it dawned on me how quiet and dark my new flat was, compared to where I’d lived previously. I’d moved from central London to the suburbs, moving from a flat which was flooded by street lighting and background noise, to a street so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Although I’d moved to the suburbs for a quieter life, I soon realised I’d found comfort in the bright lights and background noise of the city.
In addition, one of the early writing projects I found myself working on when I started out freelancing, was an eBook for people looking for stress and anxiety coping techniques. Whilst researching for the book, I had read up on yoga and the fact that practising yoga too close to bedtime can have a detrimental effect on your sleep.
When I started my yoga practice at the beginning of the year, this stuck with me, and I always made sure I practised first thing in the morning rather than in the evening before bed.
That was until I stumbled across some online bedtime yoga videos. I decided that as I wasn’t sleeping well anyway, practising bedtime yoga couldn’t possibly make my sleep any worse than it already was.
That night I followed a relaxing 20-minute yoga video before getting into bed. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I slept. Although I still woke up once or twice during the night, this felt like progress. I had been able to roll over and fall straight back to sleep. I had slept well and woke feeling refreshed.
Once I found a routine with bedtime yoga, I then decided to look at how I could create some subtle background light and noise in my bedroom.
I didn’t want street light pollution and traffic, but I realised I did need some noise and soft lighting to help me drift into a decent nights slumber
I downloaded a nightlight app, which I didn’t like at all. The light was just far too cold and harsh.
I then remembered a technique I had used when I first lived alone. Whilst it’s a massive fire risk (sorry Mum!), I had always found candlelight to be a soothing light to fall asleep to. In the past, I had lit my oil burner just before bed and dozed off surrounded by the smell of sweet lavender.
To help conquer my issues with the silence of the suburbs, I downloaded some soundscapes from the Calm app. I could play these from my phone and leave them on in the background overnight or at least for a set number of hours to help me get through until daylight.
I went to sleep one night in January, having practised some bedtime yoga, with my oil burner glowing from my dresser, and with the sound of crickets coming from my phone, and had the best nights sleep I’d had since early August.
After trialling so many different sleep remedies, what I had actually needed was a combination of remedies. I needed to find a way of mirroring the sleep conditions I had had in my previous flat, and I needed a way of silencing my mind, which the bedtime yoga practice helped with.
I’ve now been using these techniques consistently since the beginning of the year, and I’ve barely had a bad night’s sleep since.
Whilst with so many things, there is no one size fits all answer to getting a good night’s sleep, these techniques have been my saving grace. Whilst I had tried lots of different techniques on an individual basis, what I actually needed was a combination of techniques to help turn my bedroom into the sleep sanctuary I so badly needed.
How well have you slept during lockdown? If you have any tried and tested sleep remedies to share, please leave them in the comments below.
On that note, I think it’s time to run a lovely lavender infused bath, before hitting the sack ready for a good nights sleep 💤
I’ll be back next week with some more of my mindful musings.
Have a great week ✨