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5 Ways to Sleep Your Way to Better Mental Health

By Stephanie Centofanti

You’d think COVID-19 lockdowns would mean staying in bed and just opening up the laptop, casually working while knocking back double espressos all day. BUT working from home becomes tiring AF (surprisingly). After a day of being glued to a screen, being ‘always on’ in long Zoom meetings, and wrangling our children, sleep should come as a welcome balm.

But it doesn’t. And a lot of us are getting so tired and so stressed from the pandemic that we’re struggling to sleep well… it’s a vicious cycle of worse stress, worse sleep, and deteriorating mental wellbeing. So WTF can we do to break the cycle and finally get some rest and balance back into our lives? Here’s how…

1 // Feather your nest

Make your bedroom and your bed a sanctuary – somewhere that you look forward to retiring. Whether it’s new pillows, a softer bedside lamp, a silk quilt or a luxury laundry spray, turn your bedtime into more of a treat. Ensure bedclothes are comfortable and the right warmth for the season, and that curtains block light. Although it might be tempting to use your bed as a home office while working from home, it’s so important that the bedroom is reserved for relaxation.

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2 // Switch off screens

Netflix or scrolling on a tablet seem like the easiest ways to relax, or occupy the kids while you catch up on other tasks. But the blue light emitted by screens reduces the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps us feel sleepy. Using social media right before bed can also increase anxiety. Especially at the moment, it’s good to limit the amount of social media content we’re exposed to at night. Definitely ban screens from the bedroom and try to put your phone away and on silent at least half an hour before bed. Try to get the whole family on board to help kids stick to these rules.

3 // Have a wind down routine

Parents and children alike benefit from a regular bedtime routine. Create a calm environment, lower the brightness of lights, take a warm bath or shower and read a book. The routine helps cue your brain into knowing it’s time to sleep.

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4 // Avoid late night snacks

Caffeine and alcohol are known disruptors of sleep, but large meals too close to bedtime can also be a problem. Drinking too much water may also wake you up needing the bathroom.

5 // Try relaxation techniques

There are many apps that help with sleep, including mindfulness meditation apps that also have special programs for children. Try listening to one of these to help you wind down and relax.

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If you’re still feeling tired all the time, struggling to get to sleep and/or waking in the night, seek medical advice. Snoring, sleep bruxism (grinding your jaw) and sleep apnoea can all impair sleep quality, but most conditions are treatable.

Stephanie Centofanti is a Psychology Academic at UniSA Online