If the quality of your sleep has plummeted since Covid-19 struck, you’re not alone. A study carried out by the global sleep experts at Sleep School found that more than half of the participants were unsatisfied with their sleep, with a further 53 per cent at a loss over what to do to improve it. Whether it’s work stress, struggling to switch off in the evenings (many of us are now living and working in the same, small space), or loneliness or mental health issues, several factors could be impacting your ability to drift into a peaceful slumber.
Thankfully, Sleep School – which aims to transform people’s lives simply by giving them tools to help them sleep better – has unveiled a new app that’s packed with science-backed methods to help you get a solid eight hours – all care of sleep expert Guy Meadows and his team. “Our aim is to teach people who download the app to sleep better so they don’t need it anymore,” he explains. “It’s about providing the right education and tools.”
With a focus on creating a healthy routine and good daily sleep habits, the app can help you overhaul how you approach bedtime. And in the meantime, Meadows has shared his five lessons on how to sleep better with Vogue.
1. Be grateful
“Scientific research tells us that actively reflecting on what we’re grateful for in life helps us have a more positive mindset. This helps us relax, both mentally and emotionally, and can have a very positive effect on our sleep. Taking gratitude can be as easy as spending a few minutes at the end of the day in bed to think about the events, people or places that you’re grateful for in your life that day. Whatever comes to mind, see if you can clearly identify why it is that you are grateful for it, and pause to notice how the feeling of appreciation feels.”
2. Physicalise difficult emotions
“Strong feelings such as anxiety, frustration or loneliness can make it difficult to sleep. Struggling to get rid of them only fuels them further and wakes us up more. At Sleep School we’ve pioneered the use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for sleep, which teaches us how to change the way we think and feel about difficult emotions, rather than trying to change them. A simple way to do this is to look at your emotions as they arise in your body and give them physical attributes, such as a shape, size, weight, colour and texture. For example, you might say, ‘My anxiety feels like a cold black knot tightening in my stomach.’ Describing your emotions like this works to defuse the power they have over you, and your sleep.”
3. Take a power nap
“If you had a poor night’s sleep, or simply need a post-lunch energy boost, then try a power nap. The ideal duration is between 10 and 20 minutes – any longer and you’re likely to enter deep sleep, meaning you’ll wake up feeling groggy. The best time to nap is between noon and 3pm, as this is when we all experience a natural dip in our alertness levels, making it easier to drift off. For the best results, find a quiet and comfy space to lie down or sit.”
4. Calm the mind
“A busy mind is the most commonly reported factor preventing us from falling asleep. Research shows that when we try to block out our thoughts, they come back stronger and in greater numbers. At Sleep School, we teach clients how to do the opposite, to notice and let go of thoughts, rather than trying to control them. The first step is to anchor the attention in the present moment by noticing the movement of the breath. Then when the mind wanders, which it will, you acknowledge this fact before returning your attention back onto the breath. Brain imaging research shows that repeatedly noticing the breath and letting go of thoughts strengthens a part of the brain responsible for calming down mental chatter. Aim to practice for a few minutes every day, as well as when you get into bed and turn off the lights.”
5. Improve lifestyle habits
“Live a healthy lifestyle that promotes sleep. For example, aim to drink no more than 2-3 caffeinated beverages per day, and switch to herbal or decaf alternatives at midday. Be active everyday, opting for aerobic type exercise such as walking, dancing or jogging versus weight training or sprinting. Aim to leave at least two hours between your workout and bedtime to allow your core body temperature to cool. Try to stop drinking alcohol two to three hours before bedtime, and have days when you don’t drink at all. Alcohol can block the highly restorative Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase of sleep, leaving it fragmented and unrefreshing. Make your evening meal the healthiest and smallest of the day, and aim to leave between two and four hours between eating and sleeping.”
From British Vogue