Many people around the world have recorded permanent negative changes to their sleep as a result of lockdowns. In New Zealand, widely praised for having the most successful lockdown and border management policies, where life has mostly returned to normal, the stress and anxiety lingers. There is anecdotal evidence that more prescriptions were being issued for anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication as well as an overall increase of chronic sleep problems. During the first UK lockdown on social media the hashtag #cantsleep was trending and many people reported dark and disturbing dreams.
As the first week of lockdown 2 ends in England and the firebreak in Wales comes to a close, many of us are right back to where we started in April. Our routines are once again thrown into turmoil and activity levels have dropped which can lead to sleep changes and sales of bars of chocolates have soared an incredible 46% this year, as we collectively look for ways to comfort and soothe ourselves. A study conducted last year found that even minor changes in sleep were strongly linked to higher levels of anxiety, worry and poor decision making.
Sleeping less is pretty normal when times are stressful, but it’s important to take steps to make sure that insomnia doesn’t become a habit. Your GP is likely to recommend a range of different interventions to improve sleep, including trying hypnotherapy. “Hypnotherapy and hypnosis can help us overcome patterns of sleep disturbance” says the National Council for Hypnotherapy. During sessions with a hypnotherapist you’ll be taught tools and techniques to reduce stress and worry less.
Even if your life has changed again recently and you’re back on furlough or facing the prospect of reduced income due to work drying up, it’s still important to preserve your usual sleep and waking times. Having this familiar routine can actually help reduce some stress and worry as your body relaxes into its habitual patterns. Even though it’s becoming increasingly dark and cold outside, getting out and about during the day and exposing yourself to more daylight is also helpful in resetting your sleep patterns back to their norm.
One of the easiest ways to help reduce stress, get some extra daylight, and burn off some energy is to do some outdoor exercise. Maintaining exercise routines or adding in extra movement can also be beneficial if you’re struggling to sleep. Research shows that exercise levels in line with World Health Organisation recommendations for cardiovascular health (that is, at least 30 minutes of moderate activity per day at least five time per week) also improves mood and sleep quality.
Are you still struggling to sleep? Find a hypnotherapist near you by using the NCH’s directory.