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29 August 2020

Are you finding it harder to sleep at the moment? Try these tricks to reclaim your slumber

Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, sleep is a key factor to positive wellbeing. Not only do our bodies need rest for maintaining strong physical health, but sleep also supports healthy brain function, including the ability to form memories.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have noticed changes to your sleeping patterns. Stress and anxiety often impair sleep, and many of us are feeling more worried and anxious than usual at the moment. Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can lead to a number of side-effects, including reduced alertness, lack of motivation, inability to make decisions and poor judgement.

Try these strategies to get your sleeping patterns in check and develop sound sleeping habits.

Calm your mind and body

Beyond Blue suggests limiting the use of technology before bed. Screen lighting and apps are designed to keep you alert, so allow yourself time to unwind from technology before going to bed. Switch your phone settings to a night mode to reduce the stimulation on your brain or – even better – avoid screen time altogether, particularly if you’re being distracted by information (or potentially misinformation) about COVID-19.

Meditation, breathing exercises and calming techniques can help to relax your mind, but try to manage your stress as much as possible throughout the day so it doesn’t catch up with you when you’re lying in bed.

You should also limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, which can lead to interrupted sleep, night sweats and headaches.

Develop bedtime routines

One way to help improve your sleeping habits is to develop a consistent bedtime routine. Michael Barham, Associate Lecturer at Deakin’s School of Psychology, says this means avoiding irregular bedtimes and instead going to bed at the same time every night. ‘Irregular bedtimes can mess with your internal body clock and make it harder to go to bed and wake up when you need to,’ he says. ‘If you do all-nighters then sleep for 20 hours on a Sunday, it completely breaks your rhythm and your brain doesn’t know what to do with itself.’

While we understand the appeal of a ‘nanna nap’ is strong, Beyond Blue recommends avoiding napping during the day. Napping can affect your sleep and inhibit your ability to re-fuel your body.

Write down or express your thoughts

Do you find yourself thinking about your study or to-do list at night? Write your thoughts down instead! Getting your worries out of your head and onto paper is an effective way of helping you relax in bed, preparing you to manage any stress the next day.

Take control of environmental factors

Environmental factors are those you can control, such as noise, lights, temperature, diet, alcohol and exercise. Focusing on what you can control is an effective way of improving your sleeping habits and overall wellbeing, helping you maintain a sense of calm during times of crisis.

Reach out for support

If poor sleep or lack of sleep is affecting your study or impacting your overall health and wellbeing, it might be time to seek help. A range of support is available, both at Deakin and in the community:

This is an edited version of an article originally published on this.

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