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Mental Health Awareness Week: Be kind to yourself - tips for a good night’s sleep

20 May 2020

If you’re having difficulty getting a good night’s sleep during the current pandemic, you’re not alone. Whether you’re one of the lucky people who usually sleep well or if you’ve had sleep problems before, having problems with falling or staying asleep may happen suddenly. Or it may be that existing sleep problems have worsened.

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for our mental and physical wellbeing.

Broken sleep can have direct impact on our emotions and how we interact with others.

Here are some tips for different ways to be kind to ourselves during Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond.

Regular times, routines

Sticking to predictable patterns is especially important if you already have a mental health condition which may make you more sensitive to disruption to your inner body clock:

  • Set a routine for yourself even if you’re in quarantine or working from or staying at home
  • Get up at the same time every day. A regular wake time is the most important input for our brains needs to “see” natural light in the morning as this helps our body clock.
  • Try to go outside every day, especially in the morning
  • Do at least one thing at the same time each day, such as calling a friend or cooking
  • Eat meals at the same time every day. Even if you’re not hungry, eat a light snack at this time
  • Avoid naps during the day, especially later in the day. If you have to take a nap, restrict this to 30 minutes, as napping makes it harder to fall asleep at night
  • Stick to consistent sleep and wake times which fit your natural rhythm. If you’re a night owl, stay up a little bit later and get up a little bit later; if you’re an early bird, go to bed a bit earlier and get up earlier. The important thing is to make sure you go to sleep and get up at the same time every day

For too many people – including clients to whom I’ve spoken over recent weeks – the lockdown has brought little change to their lives as isolation, financial hardship and lack of structure and activities has long been norm for them. This serves as a reminder of what living with mental health problems can be like. Whether the Covid pandemic has changed your life a little or a lot, this can be the time to take steps towards improved sleep or positive change in general.

This article is written by Dr Sarah Hellegren (pictured above), who is a Counselling Psychologist at West London NHS Trust’s Hounslow Recovery Team.