Before the pandemic, I took my blissful eight hours a night for granted. But in the aftermath of lockdown, I found myself waking in the early hours, with an agitated mind whirring at approximately 100mph. If, like me, you’ve been experiencing disturbed, sleepless nights or vivid dreams more frequently, you’re not alone in your pandemic-induced insomnia.
A survey by researchers at King’s College London has suggested that half the UK population has struggled with sleep since lockdown, given the pressures brought on by the pandemic and worries about health, social isolation, employment, finances or the challenge of combining work and family obligations.
“Disturbed sleep is often caused by stress, and can itself increase stress levels, creating a cycle that is difficult to break,” explains Dr Ivana Rosenzweig, of Kings College. It’s not surprising but unfortunate that such a major life event is likely to impair sleep, at a time when healthy sleep is more important than ever.
According to Dr Paula Falconer, lead physician at Bupa’s Chancery Lane health clinic, practising winding down by building relaxation techniques into your daily routine is one way to improve sleep in challenging times. “This could include mindfulness, relaxation and breathing techniques,” she recommends. You can find her tips for a better night’s sleep, including writing down your thoughts before bed, establishing a sleep routine, and eating well and exercising here.
If you feel you’ve tried everything, yoga could help, says qualified psychotherapist, author, yogi, recovered insomniac and “sleep whisperer” Lisa Sanfilippo, the author of Sleep Recovery: The Five Step Yoga Solution to Restore your Rest (£12.99, Bloomsbury). In the book, she explores how yoga practices can be used to target the underlying issues that inhibit good quality sleep, drawing on psychotherapy and neuroscience.
In order to help those of us who are struggling to sleep in the wake of lockdown, Sanfilippo – yoga teacher trainer at London’s premier Triyoga studio – has launched a series of Sleep Recovery yoga videos on the yoga streaming platform Movement for Modern Life (“the Netflix of yoga”), featuring yoga-inspired sleep sequences, restorative postures, breath work and meditation to promote deep, restorative sleep.