Sleep saboteurs: are the restrictions affecting our sleep patterns?
There was an article on the HuffPost site a few weeks ago which discussed the effect that the restrictions are having on our routines, most notably our sleep cycles and patterns.
Adam Bloodworth writes that sleep problems are becoming widespread during the pandemic, with our normal lives and routines being disturbed and altered. He tells us that he can relate to the many other people who report sitting up later and later, scrolling social media and mindlessly watching TV.
It seems to be more difficult for people to stick to healthy sleep patterns and cycles when they're unable to perform their daily rituals of visits to the gym, seeing friends, and walking to work.
When engaging in these pastimes and practices we're exposing ourselves to more natural light which is an important ingredient for the production of hormones like melatonin which are essential in regulating our sleep cycles.
There's also the stress and worry factor that comes with living through a pandemic and that's not helping our cause either.
In response to tensions and anxieties, the 'stress hormone' cortisol is released into the body which stimulates a 'fight or flight' reaction, to keep you safe from danger. But it doesn't help at all when it's being released in the evening when you're trying to wind down and relax before going to bed.
When sleep problems start to creep in, and getting through the days with a 'hangover' starts wearing you down, it's very easy to start avoiding going to sleep by staying up late, yet that doesn't help you to drift off either.
I've had to put up with all sorts of problems with sleep over the years, most of them being mental health (illness), related. When manic I don't sleep at all for weeks on end, conversely when depressed, I'm in a comatosed state for seventeen hours a day. Then there's the 'mixed states' where I'm awake all night but with negative racing thoughts, unable to escape, even though my mind is severely stunted and savagely suppressed.
The HuffPost article doesn't really discuss any strategies for combatting sleep problems but I'm going to try and discuss a few things that I've learnt from my own experience.
I do find that dumping all my thoughts down on a piece of paper just before I turn the light out, helps to quieten my mind. Very often my highly sensitive brain starts whirring with thoughts and ideas about things I'm doing the following day and somehow the process of putting the thoughts on the paper, takes them out of my head and softens their impact so that I can switch off and go to sleep.
Apart from that I don't really have any great tips except for the obvious ones of: making your bed as comfortable as possible, ditching screens and picking up a paperback book, cutting out all stimulants including caffeine and nicotine, sticking to a routine, and making sure you've exercised sufficiently.
If you're still having trouble after that then you are going to have to consider medications, but this must be a last resort because they come with issues and complications of their own.
Doctors used to prescribe drugs like valium for calming and sleep but they've realised that these drug types are highly addictive and not a long term solution. The more favoured drug for insomnia now seems to be zopiclone which comes from a less addictive family and has less potential for complications.
However, when I'm in a mixed state it does absolutely nothing for me at all, even on the maximum dose. I've done nights on end with no sleep whatsoever, drugged up on sleeping pills and in a 'zombie-like' hungover state for the whole of the following day.
I've tried ridiculous amounts of antihistamines at different doses too and they make no difference either. As a last resort I agreed to taking a drug called Seroquel (quetiapine), which is an antipsychotic, but I don't like that either because it comes with side effects and complications.
In short, going down the drug route should be an absolute last resort after trying every other method and strategy first. I hope that when things go back to 'normal' after the pandemic, that a lot of people's mental health issues will subside, (at least a bit) and rectify themselves on their own.
Are you a non-sleeper or an over-sleeper? Do you find yourself struggling with sleep patterns through the pandemic? What do you do to combat sleep problems and issues? I would love to hear from you so please do let me know!
If you would like to read the article 'The Sleep Saboteurs' on the HuffPost site then you can find it here.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,