There’s a lot of anxiety and other mental health concerns around at the moment related to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, and so anything that can help us is welcome.
Steady is an Android app that I’ve started using on my smartphone. I recently came across this recommended app in a magazine and expected to have to pay for it, but it’s free with no adverts.
Breathing exercises are a really helpful way of relieving anxiety and stress, and this app helps you tackle your anxiety. It also provides daily reminders and encouragement for hitting monthly goals and the like.
Note: I’ve discovered there’s also a free app (Insomnia) to help you sleep, this can be accessed via the above app.
Update January 2021: Although I’d been using this app regularly, it failed to work after an Android OS update, so now I’m using the equally excellent Breathly app.
First of all, let me say I’m not an expert on sleep, although I’ve read widely about it and written about The Need for Sleep on this site.
Sleep can be elusive at the best of times, but in the midst of the current coronavirus pandemic, it can be even more difficult with so many emotions and thoughts going through our minds.
Here are tips I’ve found helpful and I try to apply them whenever possible. Although I don’t always get it right, especially with three young children.
Stick to a specific sleep schedule, try to settle down and wake up at the same time each day. Remembering that a lie-in at weekends won’t make up for and lack of sleep during the working week, and might well make it harder to get up on Monday morning.
Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine too near to bedtime as these can be detrimental to good sleep. The latter two are not a problem for me as I’m teetotal and don’t smoke, but caffeine can be. I don’t usually drink coffee after 12 noon (2.00 pm at the latest) although I still drink tea, and so to reduce my caffeine intake before bed I’ll often drink decaffeinated tea. Another option is herbal tea, which I try to drink at least once a day, usually with a teaspoon of acacia honey to sweeten.
It’s often tempting to eat late into the evening, but this isn’t always a good idea. I’m also at an age when my bladder can wake me up in the night, so I try to balance the need to be hydrated with my overall fluid intake.
Exercise is good, but not too near bedtime. We all know that exercise is beneficial for our overall health and wellbeing, but it’s better done earlier in the day.
Naps are good and can help to make up for lost sleep, but it’s best not to take these after the middle of the afternoon as these can then make it harder to fall asleep at night.
Make sure you unwind before bed if possible, schedule it into your daily routine. Reading or listening to music can be helpful ways to relax.
Avoid screen time before bed and, if possible, keep smartphones and tablets out of the bedroom. You can also use a blue filter to reduce the detrimental effect of screen light while winding down to sleep. Many devices and operating systems now have these built-in, or there are apps you can use. You can also turn the brightness down.
A hot bath is good for helping you to relax and unwind, but also the lowing of body temperature that occurs after a bath helps you to become sleepy.
Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool, and get rid of anything that might distract you. If it’s not completely dark you could try an eye mask.
This last tip depends on you as an individual and may vary in different circumstances. If you can’t sleep, do you get up or simply lay resting? I usually apply the rule that if not sleeping is making me anxious it’s probably better to get up for a while before returning to bed, otherwise I stay put. But always avoid the temptation to check your smartphone.
Finally, in all of this don’t forget the old adage, that an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight. Sleep well.
Sleeping is the best thing we can do to improve our overall health; it’s so simple that it’s often forgotten or ignored. I’m currently reading an excellent book about why we sleep, and I’ve been surprised at the very negative effects lack of sleep can have on our mental and physical health, especially if we are building up a sleep deficit over a long period of time.
We all need both quantity and quality of sleep to function normally in our everyday lives. Unfortunately, there are those who boast about how little sleep they need, and there’s also an implied societal view that sleep is somehow lazy and unproductive; these can be easily demonstrated to be false and unhelpful.
Prolonged lack of sleep weakens your immune system, doubles your risk of cancer, and increases the your chances of suffering heart disease and stroke, for example. It also adversely affects your mental health, contributing to anxiety, depression and suicide. Worryingly, many road traffic accidents are caused by lack of concentration, drowsiness and microsleeps.
Although I’ve been aware of the effects of being sleep deprived for a while, I’m now more determined to do something about it – even if having three young children doesn’t make it easy, but as an older father I owe it to them to be healthy.