Since COVID-19 has taken it’s firm hold on the world, I have been trying to strengthen my immune system to both help stop the spread and protect myself against the virus. The easiest and most accessible way to do that is sleep. Sleep supports the proteins and cells of your immune system to detect and destroy bugs and germs – it also helps them to remember them, so they can fight them off even quicker in future. Sleeps strengthen your body’s immune response, and at times like these it’s more important than ever that we’re getting enough of it. Below are nine tips to get to sleep quicker and for longer.
1. Set a schedule and keep a regular sleep schedule.
Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia. “Sleeping in” on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycles for a later awakening. Do not nap within 8 hours of bedtime.
Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day. Daily exercise often helps people sleep, although a workout soon before bedtime may interfere with sleep. For maximum benefit, try to get your exercise about 5 to 6 hours before going to bed. Do not exercise within two hours of bedtime. In the UK the COVID-19 lockdown includes the ability to undergo one form of exercise a day – by yourself.
3. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and keeps people awake. Sources of caffeine include coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some pain relievers. Smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often wake up in the early morning due to nicotine withdrawal. Alcohol robs people of deep sleep and REM sleep and keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep. Avoid all of these things at least 6 to 8 hours before sleeping if you want a good night’s sleep. Also, try to avoid eating any kind of large meal within two hours of bedtime.
4. Have a relaxing bedtime ritual.
A warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine can make it easier to fall sleep. You can train yourself to associate certain restful activities with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.
5. Sleep until sunlight.
If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself each day. Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of morning sunlight for people having problems falling asleep.
6. Don’t lie in bed awake.
If you can’t get to sleep, don’t just lie in bed. Do something else, like reading, watching television, or listening to music, until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia. Return to bed when you begin feeling sleepy, and try to avoid sleeping in locations other than your bed.
7. Control your room environment and temperature.
Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom. Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep. Ensure a dark, quiet environment whenever possible. Try to avoid going to sleep with the television or radio on, because it can be a bad habit that leads to the need to have the TV or radio on every time you try and sleep.
8. Darken your bedroom — completely.
Recent research has shown that a dark bedroom helps us sleep better and more completely every night. Studies found that even small things — like the glow of your clock or LEDs from another device in your bedroom can reduce the overall quality of your sleep.
9. Get off your phone.
It keeps your mind psychologically engaged. “Checking your phone stimulates the brain so we are more active and awake,” says Dr. Harneet Walia, a specialist in sleep disorders. “Even just a quick check can engage your brain and prolong sleep.” Going to bed and falling asleep should be a peaceful, happy and relaxing experience. Engaging with your phone too close to bedtime can negatively impact those feelings.