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If you’ve struggled to sleep during the pandemic, you’re not alone. Insomnia and other sleep problems have dramatically increased since lockdown began in March, new research suggests, with women with young children, key workers and BAME people most affected.
The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and conducted by the University of Southampton, found one in six people experienced sleep problems before the pandemic, compared to one in four after lockdown had been implemented.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it found the first four weeks of lockdown led to the sharpest increase in sleepless nights – but insomnia still persists, even with lockdown restrictions easing. Financial worry, childcare stress, loneliness and health concerns are still preventing the nation from nodding off.
We can’t change the situation, but there are things we can all do to give ourselves a better chances of sleep. We asked people who’ve experienced insomnia during the pandemic to share what’s worked for them.
Meditation and a hot shower
Liana Fricker, 38, from Surrey, says she didn’t have sleeping problems before the pandemic, but running her own business (The Inspiration Space) alongside homeschooling two children led to stress and insomnia.
“The adrenaline pumping through me during the day as I tried to balance it all, not to mention hours and hours of Zoom meetings each day, meant my mind was in hyperdrive by the evening,” she says. “Bedtime was usually midnight or 1am and then, without skipping a beat, I would be wide awake at 3am.”
Fricker says this pattern was consistent until she discovered the Calm meditation sleep app in June. She also established a sleep routine, including showering and using Neom’s ‘Destress’ oil before bed.
“I still find it a challenge to turn off my brain, but falling asleep to the sounds of meditation means I don’t wake up as often in the middle of the night,” she says. “For anyone else struggling, I recommend an evening shower and aromatherapy. It’s worked wonders for me and it’s not expensive either.”
Supplements and ditching alcohol
Melvina Samuels, 49, from South Wales, has always suffered from chronic insomnia, but says it’s been worse this year. “In all honesty, I don’t know if it’s due to pandemic or the fun of perimenopause,” she says.
“On the whole, I’m one of the lucky ones during the pandemic: I can work from home, I live in an idyllic location, so other than worrying about family, I think my sleep is worse due to a combination of factors.”
Samuels finds taking vitamin B complex supplements reduce her symptoms of insomnia. Studies have backed this up, finding that vitamin B complex can have a “beneficial effect in the treatment of insomnia regardless of cause”.
She’s also cut back on alcohol. “I noticed years ago that alcohol really affects my quality of sleep, so I now avoid it if I need to sleep,” she says. “Even one glass of wine will mean I will be wide awake and up for the day from 4am. As I don’t normally get to sleep until 12-1 am, it has a huge impact.”
Reading and removing devices
Sophie Kathir, 32, from London, is a key worker and has found it hard to sleep during the pandemic due to health anxiety. “In the night, my anxiety about what could happen to me or my family goes up,” she says, adding that she lies awake thinking about how she can protect loved ones better.
“l found refuge in books and my sleeping has been better,” she adds. “I make sure I put my phone my away when I go to bed and don’t stop reading until I feel sleepy.”
Others on Twitter provided their own tips, from listening to music to playing audiobooks.
Kathryn Pinkham, founder of the Insomnia Clinic, previously told HuffPost UK maintaining a routine is key to getting good sleep.
Many of us can technically sleep in later than before the pandemic, with some working from home and saving time commuting, while others are furloughed or have recently been made redundant. Whatever you’re personal situation, Pinkham advised: “Go back to setting your alarm again,” which should help to re-establish some good sleep habits and a crucial routine.
Other tips for getting a good night’s sleep include avoiding devices before bed, getting enough natural light during the day and keeping your bedroom cool.