As a journalist, speaker, author, business owner and a mum, Elle Halliwell’s mission is to inspire others to live their best lives. Elle’s always had a passion for health and wellness and is our guest author in our wellness series this month.
Read more as Elle speaks with mental wellbeing expert, Genevieve Anderson and shares tips for getting a good night’s sleep
SLEEP AWAY YOUR STRESS
By Elle Halliwell
2020 has been challenging for us all.
We’ve had to adjust to a new normal, and the uncertainty and change which this global pandemic has created since it began. We’ve been working from home, physical distancing from friends and loved ones, home schooling our kids and looking at years without international travel until a vaccine is found.
It’s no surprise, then, that early research is showing that as a result of this upheaval, we’re feeling anxious, stressed and struggling to switch off at night. Mental wellbeing expert Genevieve Anderson says while a small amount of stress is ok, chronic, intense stress can lead to a number of health problems.
“…when stress is intense and long-lasting, we start to see issues such as decreased concentration and memory, fatigue, irritability and low mood,” she explains.
“Prolonged stress can lead to changes inside the brain that can contribute to the development of depression and anxiety, and is also linked to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and sleep issues to name a few.”
A survey of more than 500 Australian professionals on the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed women were significantly more likely to feel more stressed and anxious than their male counterparts, due to aspects such as job and financial security, blurring of home and work boundaries and home schooling.
While we can’t control all the events happening around us, there are ways to protect ourselves from the stress it can create. And arguably one of the most crucial ways to support our health is through adequate sleep.
“Good sleep is the golden goose of emotional wellbeing. It increases energy levels, improves concentration, and makes it easier to manage our emotions; meaning we can deal with stressful situations more effectively.”
If you’re struggling to switch off once your head hits the pillow at night, try incorporating some of these tips into your evening routine:
Stick to a night-time regimen
A great way to get into the habit of going to sleep at the same time is to have a bedtime alarm clock. Set it to alert you half an hour before bed as a reminder to start winding down, for example switching off from technology and starting your evening skincare regimen.
Reduce blue light exposure
Blue light – the light emitted from certain lighting and electronic screens such as phones and TVs, can wreak havoc on microbiome, which influences our circadian rhythm. Invest in a pair of blue light blocking glasses to wear at night, or check your cell phone for a night-time mode, which can reduce the amount of blue light it emits.
Conduct a sleep audit of your bed and bedroom
Is your pillow the right shape and height for ultimate sleep? Are your pyjamas comfortable and make you feel good? Do you have the right amount of blankets/coverings to ensure you’re not too hot? We spend almost a third of our lives in bed, so it’s very important to make sure you and your bedroom are primed for a good night’s sleep.
Try sleep aids
Take a magnesium supplement or wind down with a sleep tea containing sedating and calming herbs such as hops, skullcap, valerian and chamomile an hour before bed, which can help the body switch on the parasympathetic nervous system, AKA our “rest and digest” state. Lavender has also been found to be as effective as some sleep medications, so spritz a little on your pillow or add some to an oil diffuser before bed.
Listen to a guided sleep meditation
Apps such as Insight Timer and Calm offer guided meditation practices, which can help to prime the body for sleep. Even taking a few moments to breathe deeply and focus on the present moment can support the adrenals and reduce anxiety.
Use the 5,4,3,2,1 mindfulness method
This method can be used any time you’re feeling stressed or struggling to switch off your mind before bed, as it returns the mind to the present moment. Sit or lie quietly, and simply take notice of the following: Five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you’re grateful for.