How to get better sleep during coronavirus

How do you feel when your sleep is affected? Exhausted, right? Here are a few observations and more importantly, tips on how to get a better night's sleep during the lockdown and afterwards.

In your lifetime it is highly likely that you think one of you will have experienced an unknown enemy - a virus - that has had such a profound effect on most areas of your life. For this reason, just about all of your emotional needs are not being met in balance. Not getting needs met will make your sleep suffer.

Here's a quick run-through of those needs and how coronavirus is affecting them:

The need for safety and security - you may not feel safe because you think you could get the virus and if that happens who would look after your family? How secure do you feel when you think your money will run out or you may lose your job or your home?

The need for attention - have you enough people checking on you to make sure you're OK? Maybe you are getting unwanted attention. Could be that you are giving everyone attention and trying to do your best but not getting any in return.

The need for privacy - maybe you feel lonely and isolated. Or it could be that you cannot get any privacy in your home and you feel suffocated.

The need for status - how is that working out for you? You're used to fitting in at your office or amongst your peers and friends. Not happening. Even at home, it can be difficult to have status. You all have needs and to be equal and respected.

The need for control - this situation makes you feel out of control. You don't know when it will end, how much damage it's going to do. You can't make it right and you may not trust your leaders or 'experts'.

The need for community - social media. It helps but still, you are most likely missing your football, yoga, night class, place of worship...

The need for intimacy - do you have someone to talk to who doesn't judge or come up with their opinions all the time and not listening to your points of view? Someone who accepts you as you are and is happy to have a meaningful, two-way conversation?

The need for achievement - learning and achieving is so important and if you are not able to do things which make you feel proud this can put pressure on you and make you feel unworthy.

The need for meaning - your job could be what gets you out of bed every day. That something which makes you whole. Has it gone? Have you been able to find something else to get you motivated each day?

These needs are so important. If any one of them is lacking and not being met then you may feel anxious, depressed, angry or emotionally upset and very often, a number of times during the day. As humans, it is normal to become emotionally aroused during the day (we may not even be fully aware of it). During the lockdown, this might be happening many more times. A family member might say something unkind. You just can't get any peace and quiet. The news is so concerning. More bad news about work. The boiler breaks. A filling falls out. Your mother has been taken to hospital. So many reasons; especially as you are in lockdown.

Those emotional arousals pile up during the day. Then it's time for bed. Oh dear. Normally we will go to bed, get off to sleep and during the night we will dream out those emotional arousals, clearing our minds for the next day. If you're lucky, you'll wake up pretty much rested and then get ready for the day. A good night's sleep will mean you won't remember your dreams (you will have had them) because you would have slept through.

Now is different. There have been just too many arousals. Chances are by the time you go to bed you are emotionally exhausted already. This may mean you are staring up at the ceiling or tossing and turning with the worries or the sadness or anger. Finally you get off but two hours later you're awake again. When you wake the next morning you may be feeling terrible. You remember your dreams and they're huge and weird and so many of them. You tend to remember the dreams you have had just before you wake up so you may have woken up a few times in the night and that's why you remembered them. Jittery, tired and completely lacking in motivation you drag yourself up and then drag yourself through another pointless day. This is a cycle and repeats itself until you find a way to overcome it. You may find that old 'stuff' which was long forgotten and dealt with has raised its ugly head and your mental health is beginning to suffer.

OK. Enough of all that. I think you have the picture? If any of this sounds like your situation then let's see what can be done to get you feeling at least a little better while you're going through this period which will, (important to say this first,) end, at some point, in the not too distant future. Let's put some things into perspective. Are bombs falling all around you? Are you starving? Do you know some people who are worse off than you? Put the TV on and you'll see many.

Sleep difficulties can happen for many reasons. Your mother or father may have been a bad sleeper. You may have a health condition or taking medication which affects your sleep. Your conditions at home might be cramped or noisy. If your sleep has deteriorated since the lockdown then it is probably because of the anxiety and stress you are under because of lockdown. It could be the case that you need to accept that for now; your sleep is just going to be bad and it will get better when this is all over. That acceptance is a good step. Try a sticking plaster on your sleep issues for now. Catch a nap here or there and avoid coffee to keep you awake as it won't help at all. Think that decaff is better? No, it is not. Decaff has 30% caffeine. You can go back to tea and coffee after lockdown but if you want better sleep knock it on the head or, at the very least, no more caffeine after 4pm.

Alcohol is another sleep depriver. Too much and it's easy to wake up during the night either wanting to go to the toilet or with the effects of withdrawal.
Avoid intense exercising after 7pm and drinking too much water before bed as that will send you off to the loo.
Can you leave your phone out of the bedroom? And your pets? If you have a lot on your mind then before you go to bed write anything down that can be dealt with the next day. Journalling is great for your mental health and actually creates a chemical reaction inside your head which calms you down. Get what's in your head down on paper.

Talk to a professional. There are many counsellors offering free or low-cost therapy during Coronavirus. A problem shared is a problem halved. Getting your mental health improved will help your sleep and this time will pass. It is tough and you need to be strong. If you possibly can, try to get out as often as is possible, just to clear your head. Listen to a free app such as Calm or Headspace or check out meditation videos on YouTube. What can you do to help you feel better? Keep yourself busy so that you don't have all those worrying thoughts crowding your head. I hope some of this will be of help and it won't be too long before you can get back to a good night's sleep. You'll see...

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Sally Nilsson HG.Dip.P, MHGI, Cert. Hyp.Dip, Human Givens Counsellor

I am a Human Givens Therapist, Counsellor and Hypnotherapist. I'm committed to breaking taboos on mental health in our communities and promoting good mental health. During Coronavirus I have written a number of articles to help with improving mental health and offer online counselling using Zoom, Skype or Wattsapp.… Read more

Written by Sally Nilsson HG.Dip.P, MHGI, Cert. Hyp.Dip, Human Givens Counsellor

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