I have long struggled to get into bed before midnight. However sleepy I feel, all the thoughts in my mind gather together late at night and decide that this is the time to start dancing an enthusiastic conga. As a result, I’m often up and about during the early hours, watching telly and listening to Dire Straits. My neighbours hate me and I make a terrible breakfast companion, but you can’t have everything. At the very least, the 24-hour corner shop enjoys my round-the-clock custom.
After months of lockdown, however, I’m even worse at falling asleep at a reasonable hour and feel almost constantly exhausted. I’m not alone on this front: a recent study showed that the number of people in the UK experiencing sleeplessness has risen from one in six to one in four during the pandemic, while the word ‘insomnia’ was Googled a record number of times last year. The experts are calling this phenomenon ‘coronasomnia’, a product of disrupted routines and long term anxiety. Clearly, we’re all going to need something a bit stronger than herbal tea and a warm bath.
Before you reach for the sleeping pills, however, try sprucing up your sleep hygiene. "Sleep is incredibly important for the nation’s overall health and wellbeing," says physiologist and sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan. "Whilst the current pandemic isn’t a factor we can change ourselves, our sleep pattern is. Creating a healthier sleep routine and changing habits should allow for a better, rejuvenating night’s rest." Of course, all the usual tips apply: put your phone down as early as possible (blue light is your number one enemy) and don’t drink tonnes of coffee (which will keep you up and add to your cortisol, or stress hormone, levels – which no one needs right now).
What you might not know, however, is that setting yourself up for a peaceful slumber starts as soon as you wake up. "Breakfast is the most important meal, as it sets you up for the day, but it also helps you at night," says Dr Nerina. "Breakfast helps to regulate our melatonin production – the hormone we need for a good night’s rest. Make sure you pick a breakfast dish that is rich with sleep boosting foods, such as seeds, nuts, whole grains, yoghurt and fruits – bananas and oranges in particular. All of these food items contain nutrients that enhance the production of the hormone, allowing your sleep routine to benefit."
You can also help yourself by taking regular work breaks throughout the day. "Our energy levels run on 90-minute cycles, so it’s very important to take a break every 60 – 90 minutes," says Dr Nerina. "Taking these little snippets of ‘me time’, especially when you’re working from home, allows you a chance to take a breather and re-focus your mind." Which is practically permission to watch an hour of Netflix at 4pm on Wednesday, right?
For years, I have obstinately ignored wellness junkies pushing yoga and sage burning as relaxation aids, but as lockdown continues and my sleep becomes ever more fractured, I’m willing to give anything a try. As well as road testing Dr Nerina’s tips, I’ll be buying into some supremely enticing, sleep-inducing treats: think feather-light PJs, heavenly candles, delectable sleep sprays and cosy blankets. After all, if anything can get me into bed (no sniggering at the back, please) and ensure a good night’s kip, it’s this lot…
Under-the-radar (for now) label Sapna stocks the very softest robes and pyjamas, made in Jaipur using natural dyes, that are just asking to be worn on a cosy evening in.
The Big Daddy of scented candles, a Cire Trudon number burning by the bath is the ultimate in self-care. Well worth the investment.
Struggling to get much-needed shut eye? Order yourself a Morphée, a nifty little non-digital device that contains over 200 meditation sessions to send you swiftly off to sleep, with no screen required.
This top-of-the-range sleep spray really works: a quick spritz on your pillow is all you need to ensure many blissful hours of snoozing.
I mean, who could resist? We challenge you not to fall into the deepest of slumbers under a blanket this flamboyantly cosy.