After prolonged lockdown more and more people have allowed their natural sleep pattern to slip. To enable us all to get back to work we need to rebuild our sleep pattern so that we can get back into the our pre-lockdown rhythm of life. We all need different amounts of sleep but what neuropsychology tells us is that if you get less than seven hours you may be suffering from anxiety and if you get more than nine you may be suffering from depression. Sleeping seven to nine hours means that you are emotionally balanced neither anxious or depressed. Getting a good nights sleep is essential fo our physical and emotional health.
What time do you naturally wake in the morning?
All of us have a natural body rhythm. My body/mind system is set to 5am and it has been that way for many years. This is so embedded in my system that even if I go to bed at 1am I will still wake at 5am though I might choose to go back to sleep. This is true except for when I go on holiday. I do what we all do and arrive on holiday feeling the everyday stresses of life but after a few day the levels of stress hormone in my mind/body system gradually reduce to a point where I might still be asleep at 8.30am. Then comes the magic moment when the holiday is over and I have to get back into my sleep rhythm to do my work. This can be tough. It might take me three or four weeks to rebuild my normal pattern and then there it is 5am and I am wide awake.
Lockdown sleep patterns are the extreme of holiday sleep. It starts like holiday sleep slipping into getting up later. After all there is nothing to do, no work to go to, nobody wants anything and nobody needs anything, the routine has gone. Prolonged holiday sleep in lockdown can start to become disordered. As it extends and we get up later and later the amount of hours that we are sleeping extends and that can be the key into depression.
Getting a proper night sleep is essential for our health and disturbed sleep can lead to deeper and more profound psychological and medical health issues. Sleep scientist tell us that the magic three for total health are exercise, nutrition and sleep. I would add in that we need to be leading the sort of life that makes us feel happy, valued and worthwhile.
Sleep has two main functions. The first is deep sleep or non rapid eye movement or NREM sleep. This part of the cycle deals with physical repair of the body tissues. The second is rapid eye movement or REM sleep. This is the dream cycle and deals with emotional processing and emotional health and wellbeing.
Many of the symptoms that I am dealing with during lockdown have their origins in the fact that our routines have been disordered and that we are unable to regulate our mind/body systems as we did before lockdown. As well as depression and anxiety commons issues are…
High blood pressure
This can come from lack of sleep and increased consumption of caffeine and alcohol and a reduction in exercise.
Mood changes and disorders
Often driven by boredom, anxiety and depression we can start to develop a short fuse, become irritable and intolerant. This can be associated with angry outbursts and even domestic violence and abuse.
Disturbed sleep can lead to inflammation in the body tissues. I take turmeric everyday to counteract any stress related inflammation. Constant inflammation can create cardio vascular disorders and the pain in arthritis and rheumatism. It can lead to diabetes and premature ageing.
Memory loss, especially short term, are commonly associated with disturbed sleep. Some people talk about brain fog or brain freeze as the frontal lobe of the brain becomes affected.
We can feel stiff and develop aches and pains in our muscles and joints. This can be both from disturbed sleep and from lack of exercise.
We know that people with a good sleep pattern tend to have a more robust immune system. At the time of Covid 19 a good sleep pattern and a robust immune system is very important though maybe hard to achieve.
Getting back the rhythm
If we are going to make it out of lockdown and back into the normal rhythms or our everyday lives of work, family, school, socialising etc., we will need to start with getting our sleep pattern right. This means avoiding media and devices like phones and tablets prior to bed time.
We need to move our sleep pattern back to where it use to be. The easiest way to do this is to set you alarm and get up at your normal time, even if you feel really tired. This has the effect of making us want to go to sleep earlier. As long as you keep getting up to your alarm you’re pattern will shift back fairly quickly.
When you do get back into work you will probably feel exhausted and it may take several weeks for your mind/body system to reset itself. Then you will say, “I feel like I have never been away from work”.
Assuming that there is not another rise in the R number we will not go back into lockdown. But, if we do, try and keep you regular mind/body system pattern in sync so that when we come out again the transition will be easy.
Take care and sleep well