How to get a good night’s sleep during a pandemic

How to get a good night’s sleep during a pandemic

Have you ever found yourself putting your cereal in the fridge instead of the milk? Chances are it was after a bad night’s sleep.

Studies show that poor sleep is disastrous for decision making, with subjects unable to adapt1 to changing circumstances.

So right now, when you need to make important financial decisions on behalf of clients, sleep has to be a number one priority.

No doubt you’ve noticed you’ve been waking up2 in the middle of the night more than usual having had some very strange dreams.

The search term “weird dreams” went up on Google four-fold 3 in April 2020. It’s even acquired several twitter handles and a hashtag #pandemicdreams

So, we asked some of our staff to see if they’d been having #pandemicdream too. Turns out, they had been. Here’s what some of them said:

“Covid-19 is making me have strange dreams. The other night I dreamt I’d just given birth to a baby boy but when I started introducing it to people it was actually a dog. I’d given birth to a dog!”

“Had a weird dream. A team meeting turned in to a team do. We ended up at my grandma’s old house – but it was a colleague’s home. And they’d arranged for a cloakroom in the entrance to the cellar where they gave you slippers and a dressing gown. Weird!”

“At the start of lockdown, I had a recurring dream about being on a flight to Toronto. When I got there none of my friends would let me stay with them because of two weeks quarantine - I was stranded. After a couple of weeks of this I texted my Canadian group chat and made them promise that if I was somehow in Toronto during lockdown they'd let me stay. The dreams stopped straight away!”

There are several theories for this. One is that dreams are the brain’s way of processing, or backing up, the short-term memories experienced during the day. But because our experiences of Covid-19 are so strange and we’re starved of social interaction 4, our back-ups are taking a strange turn.  Anxiety is making us remember.

Our survey on sleep

In April 2019, we conducted a survey on our failure to enjoy a good night’s sleep, particularly among those of us with a technology habit before bed time.††

We found that 52% of UK adults believe they didn’t get enough sleep.

While 57% of Brits believe that sleeping well is vital to good health, above eating healthily (54%) and regular exercise (43%).

So leaving aside strange dreams, here are some Dos and Don’ts’ on how to improve the quality of your sleep and that of your staff, put together by Heather Buckeridge, our clinical consultant nurse†:

Sleep dos

  1. Do establish a night-time routine – we’re creatures of habit, so find a routine before bed that leave you with a feeling of calm, be it a bath, shower or a good book.
  2. Do get seven hours – when people say they get by on five hours they’re probably kidding themselves. The body needs seven minimum.
  3. Do keep it cool – try a low tog duvet and cool pillow. As the weather gets hotter if it’s safe to do so, crack a window open, or invest in a low-noise tower fan.
  4. Do keep a pen by the bed – if you’re worrying about something write it down and par it till the next day.

If you want to refine your sleeping habits, there are even some free apps to help you on the NHS website. In the meantime, here are a few don’ts:

Sleep don’ts

  1. Don’t use technology before bed - banish computers, mobile phones, and the TV from the bedroom at least an hour before you lay your head on the pillow. They can interrupt the release of melatonin , vital for decent shut-eye. And don’t check up on fund performance last thing at night. Leave it to the morning.
  2. Don’t drink caffeine after lunch - figure out what works for you and stick to it.
  3. Don’t indulge before bed – food and alcohol before bedtime can ruin sleep.
  4. Don’t exercise late – keeping fit is great, but aerobic exercise late evening can be a hindrance in some. Yoga and meditation are better late in the day.

So here’s hoping your next sleep is long, deep and uninterrupted.

† Heather Buckeridge, RMN SRN RN BSc MA MSc
Heather qualified as a mental health and general nurse in the UK and a registered nurse in the USA in 1987. Alongside her nursing qualifications, she has a BSc in Health Promotion, a MA in Healthcare Law and Ethics, and a MSc in Mindfulness. 
She’s worked in the UK, South Africa, Canada and the USA, where she worked with large corporate customers promoting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. She’s worked for Aviva Healthcare since 2000.
†† Source: Research amongst 2,011 UK adults conducted for Aviva by Censuswide in February 2019