At a time when many are worried or anxious about COVID-19 and with the number of Brits struggling to sleep on the rise, this Mental Health Awareness Week (18th-24th May), Public Health England has launched new guidance on its ‘Every Mind Matters’ platform to help people improve their sleep.
It comes as new data from Public Health England shows more than four in 10 (41%) Brits are experiencing more sleep problems than usual, with over half of 16-29-year olds (52%) the most likely to be affected.
In addition, those already experiencing mental health problems more than usual are also more likely to be impacted. Among those experiencing low mood more than usual, 77% report more sleep problems during the outbreak, as do 67% of those experiencing stress more than usual and 66% of those with anxiety.
The NHS-endorsed sleep content has been developed in partnership with clinicians and academics including Sleep Expert, Colin Espie, and offers authoritative, evidence-based and practical support to those who have trouble sleeping.
Colin Espie, Professor of Sleep Medicine in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Oxford said:
Of course, people are anxious or worried about COVID-19, but the great thing is that sleep is there to help us resolve our emotions and to enable us to cope. This is a time to establish good sleep habits to improve your wellbeing. Try to prioritise sleep. “Don’t be afraid to experiment to find your best ‘sleep window’. We are all different, needing different amounts of sleep. Put the day to rest by winding down long before bedtime, noting down concerns and actions. Then close the book on the day. If you struggle to sleep, don’t overthink it. You can get up and reboot the system. Once you learn to trust sleep, that’s when it comes most naturally.”
Colin Espie’s NHS-approved Top 5 Principles for improving sleep during the Coronavirus outbreak
(please view all principles on the Every Mind Matters sleep page)
VALUE YOUR SLEEP
We need to take our sleep seriously and try and make sure we get enough, weekdays and weekends. This could mean going to bed earlier or spending less time in bed (the amount of sleep we need varies from person to person).
PRIORITISE YOUR SLEEP
Sleep is vital to our health, our wellbeing, our ability to function and to our mood. Prioritising our sleep means sometimes actively choosing it over something else. This may be difficult with the current disruption to our normal routines, but maintaining regular sleep habits is important, so make the commitment to winding down and getting to bed.
PERSONALISE YOUR SLEEP
The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person, so you need to find the sleep window that is right for you. Try settling earlier or later, or adjusting how long your sleep window is. Experiment, and trust that you will get it right.
TRUST YOUR SLEEP
We’re all designed for sleep, so trust that once you’ve got your pattern into shape, it will happen. If you can’t sleep, get up and move around, do something else for a while, and then go back to bed when you feel sleepy.
PROTECT YOUR SLEEP
The most common enemy of good sleep is the racing and worried mind, so try to put the day to rest before you go to bed. Take time to jot down the things that have been on your mind so they won’t trouble you when you go to bed. If you’re working from home at the moment and having to use your bedroom to do so, try to remove all traces of work before you go to bed to revert the room back into a good sleep environment.
Whilst anxiety can contribute to sleep problems, longer stretches of bad sleep can start to affect our lives by causing extreme tiredness, which makes manageable tasks and everyday life harder.
To help the nation improve their sleep, expert Colin Espie features in a new short film in which he talks through the new NHS sleep tips and advice. The film highlights that there are simple steps you can take to ease those restless nights, and offers advice to help you switch off before you go to sleep.
We know that sleep plays a critical role when it comes to maintaining positive mental wellbeing, for example, long-term sleep loss can lead to issues such as anxiety and depression.
In answer to this, the Every Mind Matters guidance has been updated and offers a range of things we can all do to look after our mental wellbeing during this unprecedented time, to prevent concerns from becoming more serious.
Sleep isn’t the only issue affecting adults’ mental wellbeing in England at present; the survey revealed that, among those experiencing sleep problems, anxiety, low mood or stress more than usual, missing friends and family (64%) was cited as the main reason their mental wellbeing has been impacted by COVID-19; followed by worrying about their family’s health and safety (51%), contracting coronavirus themselves (38%) and feeling overwhelmed by the volume of news (37%) were also issues.
Alongside the new sleep support and advice, Every Mind Matters encourages people to complete a personal ‘Mind Plan’, a quick and free interactive tool offering tailored mental wellbeing advice. More than 2 million ‘Mind Plans’ have been completed since Every Mind Matters launched in October.
Paul Cosford, Emeritus Medical Director for Public Health England, said:
It’s natural to experience trouble sleeping from time to time and it’s understandable that the current climate is making sleep harder for lots of us. We want people to know that if you are having trouble sleeping, there is help available. Every Mind Matters provides simple, achievable steps which you can take to make a difference to your sleep, and you can even create your own personalised ‘Mind Plan’ which will be tailored to your needs. Making simple changes can have a real benefit to your sleep and how you feel, so we’re encouraging people to make adjustments where they can.”
For more information, search ‘Every Mind Matters’ or visit https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/ to create your personalised Mind Plan.
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