If you live in Abuja, Lagos or Ogun state, by now you have come to terms with having your movement restricted as part of efforts by the government to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This period of limitation on our movement would require some adjustment and for a while, most of us will struggle with the idea of doing nothing. Think of this lockdown as a much-needed break from rigorous urban life, long commutes, traffic and stress – Hello Lagos.
Here is a big idea for you to try during this lockdown – improve your sleep. Get rid of the notion that sleep is a waste of time, sleep is for the weak and that you will get all the sleep you need when you are dead. Take some time during this period to form good sleep habits that your body will be thankful for.
Good sleep health is pivotal to the proper functioning of our bodies. Your brain, eyes, heart, muscles, digestive system, skin, immunity need you to sleep so they can function optimally. To make sure that we are talking about the same thing, here is a definition of sleep that everyone can relate to- Sleep is a natural, periodic state of rest for the body and mind in which the eyes close, the muscles relax and consciousness diminishes.
Medical scientists have been able to discover some of the crucial activities that take place during the day sleep, figure out their purpose and identify problems that can occur when we do not get enough sleep.
While there is a small fraction of our population that possess the so-called short sleep gene – the short sleepers who can power through their day with three to four hours of sleep, most other people need roughly between 7 and 9 hours of sleep.
Here are a few habits you can practice to improve your sleep during this lockdown and beyond:
- Maintain a regular sleep/wake cycle
- Regular exercise in the morning and/or afternoon
- Increase exposure to bright light during the day.
- Avoid exposure to bright light during the night.
- Avoid heavy meals or drinking within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Enhance sleep environments (minimize light and sound, adjust the room temperature for comfort)
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
- Have a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Go to bed only when sleepy
- Use your bedroom for sleep or intimacy only.
These are the principles of sleep hygiene that form part of the CBT-I treatment for insomnia that patients have benefitted from.
A few more tips that can help improve your sleep include having a relaxing routine before bedtime, removing distractions from your bedroom and controlling your thoughts at bedtime. A sleep doctor can help you implement these additional steps properly for maximum effect.
Good sleep improves your general well-being, you wake up feeling refreshed, your mind is sharper, it helps lower your blood pressure and improves your memory and your ability to fight infections.
On the other hand, people who do not get good quality sleep are at an increased risk of infections, mood disorders, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and cancer.
Also, use this period to personally observe your sleep for any specific problems you may have;
1. If you snore, wake up with headaches and feel tired during the day, it is possible you stop breathing multiple times during your sleep; a condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea which can increase your risk of hypertension, diabetes, weight gain, stroke and decreased libido. It helps to get tested and treated for this condition as soon as possible because it can be fatal.
2. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you may have insomnia and may need the help of a sleep doctor to help you take control of your sleep.
To get more advice about how to improve your sleep and properly treat any sleep problems you may have, visit a sleep clinic and talk to a sleep doctor.