Who we are Blog Sleep better to feel better Trouble sleeping? You are not alone. Our wellbeing consultant, Jen Wood, shares her thoughts here about how to get better sleep. "I’ve had difficulty sleeping over the last few weeks. At the start of lockdown my sleep was better, but soon the anxiety of the situation and concerns about my family started to impact my sleep. Many of my friends, family and clients have also been experiencing sleep problems, as they experience increased anxiety about families, jobs and the pandemic. How can we protect our sleep when we know how important it is for our immune response and our mood, as well as emotional regulation? Poor sleep impacts our relationships, as we tend to withdraw or be more irritable with others, and connection is also important during this time of social distancing. If we already feel stressed, poor sleep can feel like we are losing our sanity. It’s vital that we keep ourselves as healthy as possible at the moment, and sleep is key. So, what can we do about it? Here are some of the sleep tips that I use and share with my clients. Wind Down Find an activity that you can do during the second part of the evening which will prepare your body and mind for sleep, eg yoga, meditation or stretching. Only get into bed if you are tired This sound obvious, but it’s important to associate bed with sleep, and not lying awake feeling anxious and frustrated. Get up if you can’t sleep after 20 minutes Continue with a wind down activity until you feel tired. This is tough at the start, but it’s part of the CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) for insomnia programme I use with my clients, and it re-programmes the brain for sleep. Eat light and early Eat lighter meals in the evening and avoid eating too late if you can. Exercise But higher intensity exercise is best earlier in the day. Have a shower before you go to bed If you feel stressed, you can imagine that you are washing all the stress and anxiety away, preparing you for a good night’s sleep. Have a bath If you feel physically tense, having a bath with some lavender oil can be soothing. Avoid stimulants that are known to disturb sleep, eg caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Keep your bedroom dark and cool And as much as possible, keep all electronic devices out of the bedroom. Check your mattress, pillows and duvet Are they too heavy? It’s good to be cool at night, but obviously not freezing! Comfort is also essential, and I confess to a combination of down and silk pillows. Try a weighted blanket This was a revelation for me. Magnesium sleep lotion I rub on the soles of my feet before bed. It seems to help. Practice gratitude before you go to sleep. Write down three good things about the day, or even one. Mindfulness can help us learn to settle our minds and not get involved with our thoughts. Progressive muscle relaxation This is great before bed, and I’m sharing a practice with you here. These are some of the sleep specific tips that I use. However, there are some more general things that can also help to avoid the middle of the night rumination. Too much media (especially the news). I have had a news and digital detox, and have found it very helpful. When our minds are full, we can struggle to sleep, and constant social media and news can be overwhelming. Missing seeing and hugging our friends and family. This can have a huge impact on our ability to soothe ourselves. I love to hug the people I care about, and I’m particularly missing this at the moment. My dogs are getting lots of hugs! I’ve been suggesting to my clients that they hug their teddies, and I haven’t met anyone yet who doesn’t have one. Sweet dreams!" Jen Wood is an emotional wellbeing coach, therapist and mindfulness teacher with 20 years’ experience. She is also our wellbeing consultant at The Yard. Jen is offering weekly bite-sized videos sharing mindfulness techniques and wellbeing tools for our members. For more information about Jen, visit jenwoodwellbeing.com.