• Guest Writer

How to sleep more... and better!

By Muriel Kosovsky

Life-Coach and Leadership Trainer

Founder of the Self-Coaching Circle

https://www.linkedin.com/in/muriel-kosovsky-the-self-coaching-circle-b19028164/

In times of lockdown, everybody’s routines have changed dramatically. If you are a young person who normally goes to school and follows a schedule every day, the lockdown means that your normal structure has completely gone out the window. On top of not being able to see your friends, you might feel restless, agitated or maybe completely lethargic with all these hours spent in your bedroom or on the sofa watching TV or playing videogames. It might also be difficult for you to concentrate and do your schoolwork, even when teachers set homework for you – there is nobody to help and to answer your questions.


Indeed, the biggest problem that teenagers face in time of lockdown is the lack of sleep and this feeling of being completely out of a slumber routine. When you feel extremely tired or (falsely) over-energetic as a result of not sleeping enough, the consequences on your health, relationships and schoolwork can be dramatic. Here is a list of the difficulties you might encounter:


  • Being in a “bad mood” most of the time

  • Refusing to engage with your family at home

  • Finding it difficult to concentrate on schoolwork

  • Feeling unmotivated all day

  • Eating a lot more or a lot less

  • Not engaging in any physical activity

  • Inability to focus, learn and do schoolwork

  • Sleeping whenever, with no structure at all

  • Difficulty to go to sleep when you want to

  • Staying awake, fiddling with a phone or tablet

  • Getting anxious about your day

If you are encountering difficulties to go to sleep during lock down, here is a simple five-step guide to improving your sleep and the structure of your day so that you can feel energetic and healthy again in no time.

1. Create a structure to your day, Monday to Friday

This first tip is easy to implement and also makes a lot of sense. The idea is to recreate your school routine at home. A lot of families have chosen this option since the lockdown and they are seeing excellent results. This also means that the disruption to the routine is very minimal, so that in the evening sleep will come much more easily.


First, set the alarm in the morning and get up. It is important to set the alarm at a time that is similar to the time you would normally get up (minus transport of course), so maybe eight o’clock. Have breakfast, get dressed and be ready to study for about nine o’clock, like you would be in school.


The next step is to study and do the homework set by your teachers. Do your best, even if there are not there to answer questions. Read, make notes and do the practice exercises. Check your answers where you can. Remember to get up from your chair and have a little walk around every half-hour, to maintain your concentration. Your phone needs to be on silent and away when you are studying.


Have a break mid-morning, around 10.30, for 15 minutes, like you would do at school. This time is yours so do whatever you want. Try to avoid sugary snacks at this time – have a piece of fruit instead. Then back to studying. We are almost always more efficient to study in the morning, so try to get as much as possible done before lunch.


Stop for lunch at around 12.30. Have a proper sit-down meal and avoid very fatty foods such as chips. Choose a healthier pasta option – anything that is not deep-fried. Take some time after lunch to go for a walk around the block (see the section exercise), maybe with your headphones for music or a quick chat on the phone with a friend.


In the afternoon, resume studying at 1.45pm until 3pm, the same time you would normally finish school. In the afternoon, practice activities that require a different type of mental concentration, such as arts, music or physical education. Decide what you want to work on and stick to it. If you normally have other subjects in the afternoon (maths for instance), feel free to swap things around.


After “school”, take time to relax from your day of hard work, call your friends, socialize, even virtually. When you have relaxed for an hour or so, it is time to exercise before dinner. See section 2 for this. After your exercise, have dinner and then get ready to relax towards bedtime, thus creating a sleeping routine (section 4).


2. Exercise daily

One of the reasons why you find it difficult to fall asleep during lockdown is that not enough physical energy is spent during the day, so that you are not tired enough to go to sleep. It is recommended to have an exercise routine every day during lockdown, as the energy you would normally spend travelling to school, walking around and doing PE at school is not spent in this way at the moment.


Going for a walk to the nearby park or around the block is a great way to get exercise into your day. To do this, you would need to follow Government guidelines and stay 2 metres away from members of the public at all times. This is really important. If you meet a friend, you will need to follow these guidelines. However, you are still allowed to go out one hour a day for exercise so please use this hour safely.


If you have a garden, use is to walk and do some form of exercise. Easy forms of exercise could be doing an easy dance routine, some abs, squats or planks, or skipping rope. It is very easy to fit this in in the afternoon for an hour or so, whilst listening to music once the schoolwork is done. You can also do these exercises indoors. YouTube has a lot of free exercise videos available. Start with an easy one if you have not exercised for a while and then build up your strength. The whole family can get involved too!


The benefit of this is it will get your body properly tired, so that you are more likely to fall asleep at a reasonable time in the evening, especially if you have set the alarm in the morning.


3. Eat healthy food

This is especially important in the evenings, as fatty and heavy foods will prevent you from falling asleep and from having a good nights’ sleep, as your stomach will be too busy trying to digest what you have eaten. For your evening meal, go for vegetables, salad and some form of protein such as chicken, beef or maybe a chickpea curry if you are vegetarian. Avoid deep-fried foods or anything that would be difficult to digest and prevent you from falling asleep when bedtime comes.


Overall, try to cook your meals from scratch in time of lockdown – this can be another nice activity to do in the afternoon and possibly with the family. Buy fresh ingredients and put something together. The BBC has lot of free recipes online, some of which are very easy so have a go! Your sleep will get much better as a result.


4. Create a sleeping routine

This is a particularly important point: the idea is to “prepare” yourself to sleep before you go to sleep. Some of the main things you can do are as follows:


  • Get into comfortable clothes and slippers after dinner to switch to “night-time” mode

  • Have a hot bath in the evening just before bed

  • Listen to a relaxation app – Calm or Headspace

  • Stop screen time an hour before bedtime

  • Write thoughts in a journal if anything is worrying you – great way to get the thoughts out of your head before sleep

  • Spray lavender in your bedroom – highly relaxing natural plant

  • Read in bed before turning the light off – this will help you relax and fall asleep


5. Reduce screen time

Overall, it is recommended to reduce screen time during the day, whether it is the TV, a tablet or a phone. Maybe have an hour in the afternoon after schoolwork and an hour after dinner. Remember to have no screen time at least one hour before bedtime, with a phone on silent during the night. This will help you relax during the day and in the evening. This might be hard at the start but you will start to see a difference very quickly if you reduce screen time.

By Muriel Kosovsky

Life-Coach and Leadership Trainer

Founder of the Self-Coaching Circle

https://www.linkedin.com/in/muriel-kosovsky-the-self-coaching-circle-b19028164/

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Visyon is a charity that supports the emotional health

of children, young people and their families.

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