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Is the Covid lockdown affecting your sleep?

guide

sleep help

sleep science

According to a new study, commissioned by The Sleep School, you are not alone. Of the 3,000 respondents (aged between 18 and 85) 42% admitted their sleep had worsened since Covid-19 and 53 % said they were now dissatisfied with their sleep.

Hester Hammond

Getting a good night's sleep should be at the top of your to do list, in fact it's the best thing you can do for your health. Dr Meadows, Clinical Director of the Sleep School, says “Even before Covid we were saying we were going through a global epidemic of sleeplessness, and now all of the things which fuel poor sleep have been magnified. For the majority of people, it seems to be worse.”

How the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the UK public’s sleep:

The main factors cited in the new survey are work worries (45%) financial stress (40%) anxiety (35%) depression (24%) and loneliness (16%). Although we can’t guarantee that a weighted blanket will solve any of the issues that cause this stress, it has been shown to provide some relief from the anxiety these issues cause and help promote better sleep.

The study has identified the following areas that need to be addressed:

Much of this can be attributed to a change in routine. For example, working from home means we no longer commute and spend many more hours in the digital world, on computers, on phones or watching TV, exposing us to more blue light.

To tackle some of these issues you could consider a virtual commute, go for a walk at the start and end of each day; take time out for a proper meal, sitting at the table and turning off distractions. This will give you back a sense of routine and some “time out”. Also, try to break away from the digital world at least one hour, preferably two, before bedtime. Instead take a bath, or cuddle up under one of our Knitted Weighted blankets with a book.

Here are some sleep strategies suggested by the Sleep School:

...Racing thoughts

Rather than attempting to block things out, employ a “diffusion strategy” whereby you focus on the thoughts as scraps of abstract language passing through your mind. Create shorthand labels for each type – work, health, money – and when a concern appears give it one of those labels and thank your brain for sending it. By choosing not to banish the thought you send a powerful message to your brain that it is no longer to be feared.

...A disruptive partner

According to Dr Meadows, many of his new clients explain that they no longer share a bed with their partner. But, he says, a key part of acceptance and commitment therapy is accepting discomfort. Switching beds breeds further resentment towards insomnia and in turn leads to even worse sleep. Instead, he suggests switching to single mattresses or individual duvets and learning to accept their (albeit irritating) habits.

...Grinding your teeth

Seven per cent of respondents to the survey highlighted grinding their teeth as something that affected their sleep. Stress is a key driver here. Using a mouthguard will help to reduce the impact and damage of the grinding. Dr Meadows suggests adapting your lifestyle to reduce sugar, caffeine, and alcohol and including short daily breaks to help diffuse stress. Walking outside – especially at the end of the day to signify to yourself that work has finished - is crucial.

...Waking up in the early hours

We have evolved to sleep in cycles of around two hours long before briefly awakening to check for danger. When stressed, this can mean waking in the early hours and then struggling to get back to sleep. Understanding that this is normal, says Dr Meadows, helps reduce anxiety.

One tip is to focus on the physical connection between your body and bed to help anchor your attention to the present. Avoid getting up, switching on lights, having a cup of tea, or anything that moves you further away from sleep.

...Night terrors

The sooner you can break the spell of a nightmare the better. When you wake up, try to set aside any emotion and simply tell yourself you’ve had a bad dream. This will force you to be objective.

In the case of a recurring nightmare, Dr Meadows suggests something called “image reversal therapy” where you practise an alternative ending during the day to diffuse the power of a nightmare. In all cases, his golden rule remains: don’t get out of bed. In addition to the above, consider the use of a weighted blanket, as part of your bedtime routine as well as during the night.

Here’s the science behind weighted blankets…

Weighted blankets have long been used for deep pressure therapy. The weight of the blanket acts on the muscles, tendons, and joints, creating a greater body awareness and self-control. Production of serotonin (the happiness hormone), and melatonin (the sleep hormone), are promoted, and cortisol (the stress hormone) production reduced, this results in relaxation of your muscles and nervous system, reducing tension and stress.

The deep pressure provided by a weighted blanket can help reduce the physiological arousal associated with anxiety by acting on the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

The ANS has two components: the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic is responsible for the body’s “fight or flight” response. When activated by stressful situations, it increases functions such as your heart and breathing rate, causing physical symptoms like a pounding heartbeat and shortness of breath. The parasympathetic is the opposite, it helps you conserve and restore energy by slowing down functions like your heart and breathing rate – “rest and digest”.

A weighted blanket can trigger a switch from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic helping you to control the situation, feel calmer and more in control. For the anxiety blanket to be the most effective the weight needs to be spread evenly across a large area, unlike classic bead filled blankets which have a loose fill our Knitted Weighted blankets have no additional filler just pure cotton, ensuring the best weighted blanket experience.

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