How 2020 Ruined Our Sleep (And How To Improve It In 2021)

You’re in bed, you should be fast asleep but instead, you’re wide-awake. Your mind is racing, obsessing over everything happening in the world right now. You’ve been tossing and turning for hours and now you’re staring at the ceiling wondering if you’ll ever sleep again.

Sound familiar? Yep, me too.

Moon rising over a forest

What has happened to our sleep this year?

There is a huge weight on the world right now with each of us carrying our own personal backpack of worries, stress, pressure, and anxiety. The last thing we need is sleep deprivation, which is why we’ve decided that our second Sleeboo post should focus on how we can turn this around, or avoid it in the first place!

Sleeping Through A Pandemic

2020 has been stressful (understatement of the decade?), and it’s affecting our sleep like you wouldn’t believe. Coronavirus, and the myriad stresses associated with it, has created a perfect storm of reasons to be struggling to sleep.

Even pre-pandemic, lack of sleep was an urgent public health issue. Some of the main causes, such as stress, increased exposure to blue light, and a sedentary lifestyle, have only been exacerbated by the current situation. As if the current Coronavirus wasn’t devastating enough, the pandemic may be causing more of us to experience insomnia.

Cue a new buzzword: “Coronasomnia,” the catchy term used to describe sleep problems related to the pandemic (could 2020 be a record-breaking year for the most buzzwords created?).

That said, some people are actually sleeping better right now — stress affects us all differently, as we know.

Read All About It… 24/7!

For those of us struggling to sleep, the media certainly isn’t helping the situation. We have a 24-hour news cycle at our fingertips, and how often is it good news? More often than not it’s urgent and worrying.

Whether it’s the latest Coronavirus figures or the future of our planet, the temptation to check for updates is powerful. This was particularly prevalent during the US election too, when late bedtimes, heightened emotions, and increased alertness (not to mention increased exposure to blue light) were rife.

How many times have you found yourself scrolling through social media late into the night this year, only to see a post that infuriates or upsets you and then plays on your mind into the wee hours? I’m sure you’ve heard it before but, for this reason, keeping your phone in the bedroom is a no-no, especially as restricted sleep only amplifies angry feelings — no amount of coffee can cure that.

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Lifestyle Changes And Sleep — Home Is The New Office

Our circumstances have changed dramatically this year. Usual routines have been disrupted and our sleep cycle has been disturbed as a result — our circadian rhythm relies on daily routine as much as we do. Circadian rhythms regulate our sleep; they’re 24-hour cycles that are part of our internal body clock. If we change up our routine (or remove it altogether) it throws our rhythm out of whack.

For a start, we’re not commuting to work, which may be great, but that early rise and exposure to natural light as we walk to the train station (or run, in my case) is key to keeping our body clock ticking.

Our home is now our office and for many of us it’s sometimes hard to make that clear distinction between work and personal life, particularly when the ‘office’ is our bedroom or our desk is the kitchen table (we’ll be exploring this and offering some tips in another article very soon!). Also, with partners and/or kids around the house during the day, we have an increasingly muddled work/life balance — something Sleeboo founder, Joanna, knows only too well with two kids and a dog at home.

We’re also spending more time indoors, which means we’re not getting the necessary natural light to regulate those internal body clocks. Hitting snooze in the morning? Guess what? This also disrupts our circadian rhythm. It’s all about the circadian rhythm, folks! This topic opens up a whole other can of worms too, we’ll touch on this in a future post for sure!

Your 2021 “Sleep-Friendly” Routine

Right, so we know why we’re not sleeping well in 2020. So how do we solve it by the new year? We need to devise a “2021 sleep-friendly” routine.

The pandemic has disrupted most of our usual routines in 2020, and it may change the way we work forever, so we’ll need to adapt in a way that’s right for us.

If you’re working from home, try to set a clear distinction between work and personal life — it sounds obvious but in reality, this is hard to achieve, as you may have discovered this year.

During your usual work hours treat your home as you would an office. Try “commuting” to work each day and physically leave the “office” in the evening. Take lunch breaks away from your desk, and try to keep household chores outside of your work hours if you can.

Allow me a moment to give you an example, this is my own new morning routine:

As soon as I get out of bed, I throw some clothes on and leave my flat (I’ve said it before, natural light and fresh air in the morning works wonders). I run, walk, or cycle for 30 minutes and, once home, jump in the shower. Then, dressed for the day, I walk into my “office” (living room), say good morning to my plants, and open the shutters. Later, when I’m done working for the day, I leave the “office” and “commute” back home.

Honestly, when I stick to it, this routine really helps me to distinguish between “office” time and home life. I’m able to chill in the evening and avoid the temptation to open up my laptop again.

Something else to consider to help improve your sleep, and perhaps build into your new routine, is meditation. Many people all over the world swear by meditation as a relaxation technique and it’s only gaining in popularity. Rafael Pelayo, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, suggests that meditation and the concept of mindfulness may help us sleep better at night.

In this podcast episode, Rafael talks about the fact that mindfulness is a meditation approach that is actually incorporated into some insomnia programs to help people get a better understanding of what is happening to them when they can’t sleep. This in itself can be really useful to help us change our mindset when we’re in bed and struggling to sleep. The idea is that it helps us to be in the moment and prevents us from worrying about the future or dwelling on the past when there is absolutely nothing we can do about it while we’re in bed.

He has a point there, don’t you think?

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