A very wise person recently described the pandemic as a ‘Global Trauma’ and it struck me as being profound and very true. Whether it’s due to loss, fear, a change in family dynamics, jobs, security or our identities, we have all experienced and are still experiencing huge changes to our lives and our environments this year.
It’s no wonder that we’re all struggling to get a good night’s sleep! The world needs to rest, to restore and to repair from this global trauma we’ve all experienced on some level. A lack of sleep, poor sleep quality or insomnia can also be hugely contributing factors in anxiety, stress and depression. Sleep is one of the key things we all need for our emotional, physical and mental wellbeing, the good news is that we can put simple measures in place to improve it.
“If you’re feeling low, you may not realise that lack of sleep is the culprit. But even small levels of sleep deprivation over time can chip away at your happiness. You might see that you’re less enthusiastic, more irritable, or even have some of the symptoms of clinical depression, such as feeling persistently sad or empty. The link between sleep and mood has been seen over and over by researchers and doctors. For example, people with insomnia have greater levels of depression and anxiety than those who sleep normally. They are 10 times as likely to have clinical depression and 17 times as likely to have clinical anxiety. ” www.sleepfoundation.org
A lack of sleep can affect our mood, our ability to retain memories and learn new information, to feel motivated, to solve problems, our relationships with others and our relationship with ourselves. We spend around one third of our lives asleep & it impacts our health and wellbeing on so many levels, so, how can we improve our sleep when times are tough and stress, anxiety & depression are affecting more and more of us?
Create a calming space:
Making your bedroom a sleep-inducing sanctuary can impact the time it takes you to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep, try the following:
- Spend some time removing clutter in your bedroom to make it a relaxing space for slumber
- Remove anything that might trigger a stressful response or keep your brain active such as work documents, bills or to do lists. Try to get into the habit of clearing your sleeping space before you get into bed
- Reduce light pollution using an eye mask & reduce noise by using ear plugs
- Essential oils such as lavender, ylang ylang or sandalwood are popular for sleep and relaxation. You can burn them in your bedroom, use a diffuser, enjoy a bath with a few drops in, make your own mist or use them on your pillow
- Himalayan salt lamps are also claimed to improve air quality, boost your mood & help you sleep
Write your own Sleep Ritual
This could be as simple as switching your phone to silent 30 mins before you go to bed or it could be as indulgent as you like! Creating a ritual around sleep can help to form healthy sleeping habits by committing time & energy to a regular ritual.
You could try burning essential oils before you get into bed so the room is welcoming and relaxing. Keep a gratitude journal by the bed to write down something you’re grateful for from the day and when you’re ready to go to sleep, close your eyes and slowly scan down your body relaxing every muscle from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
Set a Sleep Schedule: Decide on a regular sleep and waking schedule and stick to it. As simple as it sounds it can be really important for our bodies and minds to have a routine around sleep. We’re creatures of habit after all and if you’re going to bed at 9pm one night and 3am the next it becomes nearly impossible to establish a healthy sleeping pattern without a routine in place. Try setting a strict time you want to be in bed by and a set time to set your alarm in the morning.
“National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Babies, young children, and teens need even more sleep to enable their growth and development. People over 65 should also get 7 to 8 hours per night.”
Give yourself time to Switch Off: Set a time, ideally 30 mins before you want to be asleep, when you turn off your devices and limit sensory stimulation, you can try one of the following and see what feels best for you:
- Reading a book
- Taking a bath or having a hot shower
- Practicing Gratitude – writing down 3 things your grateful for from the day
- Meditation or Mindfulness
- A guided body scan relaxation or Yoga Nidra (available on the MoreYoga Youtube Channel)
- Listening to relaxing music before bed
Record & Reflect: It can take time to get into a healthier sleeping pattern and whilst there is no specific quick fix that will help all of us, you can quickly learn what is and isn’t working for you by keeping a simple reflection record.
Try keeping a diary for 14 days and when you wake up every morning write down what you did before you went to bed, if you can remember any dreams and how many hours you slept for, if you woke up through the night and how you feel that morning (rested & refreshed or tired & anxious etc). You can jot these reflections down in your phone or create a sleep journal to document your sleeping habits, rituals and patterns to see what helps to improve your sleep and what hinders you from getting a good night’s rest.
About the writer, Liz Joy Oakley
Liz Joy Oakley is Yoga Teacher, Holistic Wellbeing Coach and Head of Vibes at MoreYoga, co-running our MoreMind Project with Stephanie Minchin, coordinating events, content and workshops focused on better supporting our communities mental and physical wellbeing. After starting her career in the fast-paced world of luxury fashion Liz came to Yoga after being diagnosed with Malignant Hypertension and Generalized Anxiety and left with the goal of helping others to lead healthier lives holistically. Liz went on to spent a year working at the Safe Childhoods Foundation in Indonesia, an NGO committed to combatting organized crimes against children, she began to understand the true benefits of Yoga, Meditation and Psychology as therapeutic tools and describes this as a time of total transformation.
Now back in London, Liz is passionate about helping people achieve a healthier, happier lifestyle through her work. She loves bringing people together, encouraging authentic connection and is happiest when facilitating retreats, workshops and events based around Yoga, Positive Psychology and Holistic Wellbeing.
Liz teaches Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin & Restorative Yoga, specialising in teaching Yoga, Mindfulness & Meditation to improve stress & anxiety. She combines this with her work as a Holistic Wellbeing Coach & is dedicated to spreading Joy through her work.