Sleep quality is more important than sleep quantity – Advice for workers on the frontline.
Sleep quality is more important than sleep quantity and it’s difficult right now to sleep soundly for us all, especially those on the frontline. This is totally normal and you really are not alone. When we try to seek help for this we are often bombarded with stuff (‘sleep hygiene’) that even good sleepers don’t do, and often being too ritualistic around sleep only increases our anxieties around it.
The problem is that lack of sleep makes us feel out of control on top of an already unpredictable time, which only increases our daily anxieties and stressors. Gaining some control over your body will make you feel more resilient and ready for work. You have a duty of care to your patients to look after yourself first.
Take back some control with the most evidence based sleep quality techniques –
During the day:
– Light is the most powerful and free energy source that you have – How much you get in the day dictates when you sleep at night. GET MORE LIGHT. Why are you getting ready in the dark? Wake the household, radio on, get moving and turn all the bright lights on/curtains open!
– Wake up and get up at the same time every day no matter what night you have, DON’T compensate for lost sleep – let your body use it to make you sleepier the next night (your anxiety and stressors will have a lot harder time rousing you mid sleep if you have a strong sleep drive). No snoozing or napping.
– Exercise is going to be your best friend, you can dance, go for a walk/run, do a youtube training video … most people CAN exercise in the evenings/before bed – mental fatigue is very different from physical fatigue and sleeping is not usually the cure (exercising is!)
– If you are anxious and wired it’s really not time for bed. Give yourself permission to stay up later. Yes it’s important to have the sleep opportunity there if you need it – but staying out of the bedroom having a fun time, winding down from work and focusing on things that make you happy is much better than being in bed wired, anxious, and getting angry at yourself.
– Once you are feeling quite sleepy…. we need to stay sleepy and calm. This is where relaxation comes in. If you aren’t sleepy tired – relaxation isn’t some magic sleeping pill. Having those expectations makes us feel even more anxious when it doesn’t work. Use relaxation as a tool to relax only. Here are a few things you can do to improve your sleep quality:
o Listen to a relaxing audio that helps your senses to get lost (also helps that area of the brain churning out 1000 one dimensional thoughts a minute to calm down). There is one here: https://soundcloud.com/user-384807935
o Similarly watching nature videos – interestingly stuff that cats love (watching birds etc.) or similar – get lost in it like the cat does: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jqWwQNWsg4
o Breathing exercises. Breathe in like you are smelling flowers; breathe out like you are blowing out candles on a cake. Concentrate on just that.
When you are increasingly anxious or panicked (don’t focus on sleep – focus on making yourself feel better):
– GROUND YOURSELF. Plant those feet firmly on the floor. Pick five things in your room. Describe function, appearance, smell, texture. Repeat. Remind your brain you are safe. Watch someone tell you to do this on youtube for support!
– GET COOL. Calm that heart rate and temperature down. Hands in cold water, open the window. Breathe.
– Don’t pressurise sleep – do the opposite. Lie like a star fish, keep eyes OPEN stare at the ceiling and repeat gently ‘I will keep my eyes open, I will stay awake’
– Get out of the bedroom and enjoy yourself. Extra wake time always equals extra sleepiness in the long term and stops your brain associating the bedroom with wake and anxiety.
If you don’t sleep – it’s OK!!! Nothing bad will happen, rest is just as important right now. Don’t use poor sleep quality as an excuse to stop exercising, eating well and staying social. Don’t compensate by trying to ‘recover sleep debt’ – it doesn’t quite work like that. Consistency and timing is key – you cannot control when you sleep – but you can control when you don’t sleep.
If you want to get sleep back on track and improve your sleep quality why not try our DIY online course? Sort sleep out in your own time: www.sleepyheadprogram.com