How to get a good night's sleep if coronavirus is keeping you awake at night

Sleep expert Christabel Majendie speaks to ITV News West Country about how to get a good night's sleep. Credit: PA
  • By ITV West Country Presenter Kylie Pentelow
  • Update: You can find Kylie's podcast on getting a better night's sleep here.

I've been among those finding it difficult to fall asleep and then waking up regularly, often after suffering anxiety dreams.

To get some practical advice on how to cope I've interviewed sleep expert Christabel Majendie.

Christabel says there are number of factors that may be contributing to sleepless nights.

People are having to adjust to working from home, having their children around and are dealing with the uncertainty of how long this current situation is going to go on.

Watch Kylie's interview with Christabel below:

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When people are going through stressful times it's very normal to have sleep problems.

It's not that people have a problem with their sleep, it's just that people are responding to that stress. There are also a number of changes that people are making because they are stuck at home and those factors will also influence the ability to sleep.

So we're spending a lot more time inside generally - and the problem with spending time inside is you have reduced light exposure and your circadian rhythm depends on light to keep it healthy.

– Christabel, sleep expert

Her advice - try to get outside for at least 30 minutes in the morning. That's the best light you can get, even on a cloudy day.

Christabel recommends a morning walk. Credit: PA

When you're inside in the morning, keep the lights on bright.

In the afternoon and evening reduce that light. Use side lights and dimmers and put screens away.

– Christabel

And that's another issue. With people trying to stay connected and keep in touch with family and friends, many of us are spending more time on our devices.

"Those activities are quite stimulating for your brain so it's really important to have a wind down relaxation period in the hour or two before bed," Christabel explains.

"That might be reading or watching TV - as long as the TV is a couple of meters away from your face."

So that means no tablet to watch in bed!

Tips on how to improve your sleep

  • Try to get outside for at least 30 minutes, ideally in the morning
  • Avoid screens one to two hours before bed
  • Don't check your phone during the night. Ideally leave it outside the bedroom
  • If you're working from home, try to set up your work station close to a window
  • Try not to work in the bedroom - you don't want to associate the bedroom with working
  • Try to avoid alcohol
Avoid using technology before going to bed. Credit: PA

Christabel also has a radical solution to make sure you're not tempted to look at your phone during the night - turn it off and leave it outside the room.

"Don't even check the time in the night," she says. "When you look at the time, that's unhelpful.

"Some of my clients put their alarm outside the door so they're not looking at it through the night, but when it goes off they have to get out of bed."

There are also reports of people having more anxiety dreams and nightmares due to the uncertainty with the coronavirus.

Christabel recommends trying not to worry about sleeping. Credit: PA

If you have woken up from a bad dream or nightmare you are going to feel agitated and it might take some time to calm down. If you worry about it, it will make things worse. I'd suggest in the night if you need to, go to another room and keep the lights low and do something relaxing to wind you down and take yourself back to bed when you feel a bit calmer.

– Christabel

As well as all the advice, Christabel says the key for getting a good night's sleep though is to try not to worry.

"It can turn into a bit of a vicious cycle because if you're not sleeping you feel a bit grumpy and then also you're a bit preoccupied with the fact you haven't slept and you start thinking about not sleeping the next night," she says.

"Then those thoughts are quite unhelpful and might contribute towards you not sleeping."

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