Mental health and nutritional experts explain how poor sleep in lockdown is caused by stress, anxiety and diet changes and share their top tips to change this
If you’re struggling with sleep difficulty in lockdown you’re not alone. According to a new study from King’s College London and Ipsos, more than half of Brits have faced sleep struggles in lockdown.
“Not surprisingly we are all experiencing mounting levels of stress,” explains psychotherapist and Hypnotherapy Directory member Ann Hamilton, who has seen an increase in clients reporting sleep trouble and vivid dreams in lockdown. Ann describes that there’s a clear link between additional stress, anxiety and less sleep.
“Stress can make it difficult to concentrate, enjoy emotional balance and restful sleep. Increased cortisol elevates the stress response and shifts the sleep-wake balance in the brain, which increases sleep fragmentation and ultimately leads to insomnia,” she adds.
One other factor affecting our sleep in lockdown is increased screen time, explains Ann: “The blue light of our screens is a trigger to the brain to stop producing the friendly sleep hormone melatonin.”
The lockdown sleep challenge has seen many seeking support from professionals in recent weeks. Hypnotherapy Directory reports a 138% increase in those looking for advice on sleep disorders*. While sister sites Nutritionist Resource and Counselling Directory can report a 149% increase in those looking for information on stress, and a 64% increase in information on anxiety respectively*.
Nutritionist Beanie Robinson has also seen an increase in clients looking for support with their sleep. She notes that one of the reasons for our poor sleep is because our routines have changed in lockdown.
“Often people do not know that the food they are eating could be having an impact on their sleep. Established routines have been interrupted and people have found their eating habits and behaviours have changed in some way.
“The added burden of work, uncertainty, anxiety, boredom and frustration is likely to have an impact on the consumption of comfort foods and drink as a coping mechanism. This may include increased intake of alcohol, processed and highly refined sugars, snack foods and caffeine, all of which can affect our sleep.”
If you’re struggling with sleep, it’s important you seek support advises Hypnotherapy Directory Member Samantha Grant,
“Sleep problems affect health, self-esteem and wellbeing. These, in turn, affect our interactions and can lead to depressed feelings of exclusion and lack of achievement. It can become a vicious cycle. But by using hypnotherapy the cycle can be broken. ”
5 practical tips for those struggling with sleep from therapist Ann and Nutritionist Beanie
- Sleep in a cool dark room without any light sources, try using an eye mask to block out unwanted light.
- Have 2pm as your cut off for caffeine. Caffeine stays in your system long after your last cup!
- Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes each day. Exposing your skin to some direct sunlight is really good for rebalancing your circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle).
- Make dinners lighter and earlier, latest 8pm.
- In the evenings try to create the perfect sleep environment, turn off your screens and dim the lights. Less artificial light will aid the production of melatonin (our master sleep hormone), which can help bring on sleepiness.
Where to get professional support
If you’re struggling with sleep difficulties you can talk to your GP about the options that are available.
More information on hypnotherapy for sleep and where you can find a professional hypnotherapist is available on Hypnotherapy Directory.
*The data is based on a year on year comparison of sessions on the sleep disorders, stress and anxiety pages of the Hypnotherapy Directory, Nutritionist Resource and Counselling Directory, from 23rd March – 31st May 2019 and subsequently the same dates in 2020.