Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

21.24 27 Jul 2020


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A sleep expert has urged people to get up at the same time every morning, no matter how bad their sleep was the previous night.

She has also warned against lie-ins and using the snooze button, saying such habits are not good for you.

The recent lockdown brought up fresh concerns about people's sleeping habits, when many finding their usual routine disrupted.

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A recent survey by Mental Health First Aid found that working from home had a huge impact on many people's sleep and fatigue levels.

Deirdre McSwiney, sleep technician and cognitive behaviour therapist for Insomnia, spoke to The Hard Shoulder to offer some observations and advice.

She explained: "Our body does crave regularity and routine to a certain degree.

"So many people did admit to feeling more fatigued and tireder... poor sleep and increased fatigue emerged as one of those concerning findings."

She noted this comes despite the likes of the daily commute and earlier starts being 'lifted out of the equation'.

However, she noted that any change in life is potentially classified as stressful - and that many found themselves working more, or that the working day had 'spread itself out much more' due to other responsibilities at home.

'Make sure the phone is out of reach'

So, what advice does Deirdre have for people who are having trouble sleeping?

She observed: "Mattresses and pillows are a personal choice issue... I'm much more interested in what I call the sleep hygiene element, which is that the bedroom should be completely cleared of all the accessories of living - in other words, the screens.

"The mobile phone may be needed to set an alarm... but make sure it's out of reach and there's no clock-watching or time-checking if one is awake during the night.

"For people who have a little bit of sleep difficulties... I actually ask them to have at least an hour to an hour and a half being screen free in the evenings, with the exception of TV in the living room."

She also stressed the importance of pulling back the curtains and getting up at the same time seven days a week.

She explained: "No matter how bad your sleep was on a particular night, you must still get up at the same time every morning.

"This business of lying in or having the luxury of pushing that snooze button - which I think was the worst invention ever - is not good for you.

"Facing into morning light is what gives that deep trigger into the brain that your sleep-wake cycle is pivoting correctly."

'Tired but wired'

Deirdre advises against naps during the day, saying that is simply eating into people's nighttime sleep.

She also said it's important to exercise well before bedtime, preferably in daytime when possible.

She also noted: "I'd like to stress the difference between feeling tired, worn-out, fatigued... the new term they use in sleep medicine is 'tired but wired', where people are going to bed absolutely buzzing almost but they can't settle into sleep.

"There's a big difference between feeling tired and overwhelmed with fatigue, and feeling sleepy. One should only take oneself off to bed when you're in a truly sleepy state."

Main image: File photo via Pixabay

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