Post-Covid: Managing sleep
Optimising the quality of sleep is obviously important in managing fatigue. The practice of having a good routine to get the most out of your sleep is called ‘sleep hygiene’.
Strangely, one of the most important things to try to improve your sleep hygiene is to stick to the same getting up time every day (including weekends). This helps to kick start your circadian rhythm – the body’s routine that repeats every 24 hours and which helps to regulate when you feel sleepy and more active. Once you have done this, try to establish a routine that prepares your body for going to bed every night. Once you have found your ‘countdown to bedtime’ routine, try to stick to it as it helps your body understand that it is time for sleep.
You may wish to consider introducing some of the following when planning and experimenting with your routine:
- A hot milky drink (replicates sleep hormone effects)
- A warm bath or shower an hour or two before bed. Try to let some of the water evaporate from your skin for a moment before drying yourself as this replicates the natural cooling of our bodies as we enter sleep
- Avoid screens (phones, TVs, computers) for two hours before bed preferably. The blue light they emit tricks the brain into staying awake and alert. If you must use a phone, see if it has a low-light setting to minimize blue light.
- Listen to some soothing music
- Spray some pillow mist containing essential oil such as lavender (if you can tolerate this) which is associated with relaxation or use a diffuser device to achieve the same effect. (If using anything with a naked flame – remember to extinguish it before bed.)
- Avoid alcohol (although it may make you initially feel sleepy, it has a wakening effect later during the sleep cycle).
- Try a relaxation technique such as a breathing exercise
- If you have something on your mind, jot it down in a notebook before you go to bed and then tell yourself you will do it in the morning
Once you have established your routine, try to do things in the same order every night before bed, as this signals to your brain that it is time to sleep. If you wake in the night and are tossing and turning and unable to get back to sleep within 30 minutes or so, get out of bed and go somewhere where you can sit for a while in dim light. Perhaps have a non-caffeine drink such as warm milk or a herbal tea designed for encouraging sleepiness, and then go back to bed.
If sleeplessness persists, try hard to keep your regular getting-up time, but consider going to bed later – when you really feel tired. If this results in you getting into bed and then dropping off straight away, get up at your normal time (you may need an alarm) and the next night go to bed just 15 minutes earlier. This can help ‘reset’ your sleep routine and if it works you can gradually go to bed a little earlier each time until you are at your preferred bedtime.
Do you need to print this information?
A leaflet version of the information above is available here to print out: Fatigue and sleep.pdf 163KB