As a group of young co-producers, we felt like sleep and routine were both important topics to discuss as we all shared similar experiences with our sleep and routine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Disturbances in our usual routines caused some of us distress, loss of motivation and had a negative impact on our sleeping schedules.
Why we chose sleep and routine, as told by the co-producers:
- “Going to school and uni, there was a set routine: in a way, our routine was kind of done for us. With COVID-19, lots changed and suddenly we were all at home without that routine we had before.”
- People of different ages have been affected differently. For example, some people whose GCSEs were cancelled were used to that routine but weren’t given any work to do for ages even though other year groups did, so they really felt that loss of direction.
- For people going back to school after a long time away from face to face teaching, getting back into a routine can be challenging and take a little time.
- At first, some of us felt like we couldn’t enjoy the things we used to enjoy anymore after the novelty of being at home wore off and we found ourselves faced with loads of free time we were struggling to fill up.
- Most people said that their sleep had been really affected. For some people, this looked like staying up late and waking up late or struggling to sleep at all. Others found themselves feeling tired and wanting to just sleep lots of the time.
- Try and think of something to do – set small, achievable goals or things to look forward to if you can.
- This doesn’t just mean doing “productive” things: it’s really important to do things that we enjoy – and rest, too!
- Add these things to your to do list. Lots of the time, we don’t realise how much we do in a day and it’s important to acknowledge the little victories.
- It’s important to prioritise and think about what you’re doing and why: it can be easy to give yourself a lot to achieve, so try to think about whether your to-do list is realistic for you to accomplish, too.
Getting into a routine:
- Trying to get into a regular routine can be helpful, but it’s important not to be hard on yourself if things don’t always go to plan – these things happen.
- Some people found that having regular days of the week when they do a certain activity helpful. Others liked to plan the next day the evening before they went to bed.
- Self care is important to build into your day. We mentioned having a warm shower before bed (and singing in the shower!), taking time to wind down in the evening screen-free, taking the time to cook a nice meal for yourself or the people you live with, spending time outside, doing absolutely nothing etc.
- If you’re working or studying, maybe you could give yourself a cut off point in the evenings when you have to put everything down, wherever you’re at with it.
How can we improve our sleep?
- Build a nighttime routine! We’re creatures of habit. After 3 days of bad, interrupted sleep, it becomes usual!
- Set yourself up for tomorrow, making it a bit easier for tomorrow you.
- If you’re stressed or worried and over thinking something, you can have a bit of adrenaline coursing through you and it’s exhausting for the body. You burn the adrenaline out of your system if you can do some cardiovascular exercise – even if it’s not your thing, if you’re able to and you have the energy, it might be worth a try.
- A warm shower in the evening can help you sleep: 50 minutes after you’ve had a shower or a bath, your core body temperature drops and that makes you feel more sleepy.
- Remember that hormones might also affect your sleep and energy!
- If you’re always tired or fatigued, it’s worth thinking about how long you’ve been feeling like this. A lot of the tiredness could be mental exhaustion, but if it’s stopping you from doing daily things or thinking clearly, it might be worth a visit to the GP to check it out.
- It can take around two weeks to get your sleep back on track if you’re experiencing poor sleep; try to get back into it and be kind to yourself.
Phones, sleep and routine:
- Lots of us struggled with phones, social media and sleep! Blue light filters were recommended.
- The 5 second rule was suggested; when I reach for a phone, I notice that impulse – I just notice it and pause for 5 seconds, just to break that condition: wait for 5 seconds 1 2 3 4 5 do I really want to do this? Then you’re doing it by choice, not just by reflex.
- Some people found that scrolling on social media really disrupted their sleep and routine. They found it helpful to think about what was important to them and consider whether social media was eating up more of their time than they’d like, then adjust which apps they used or how much time they spent scrolling accordingly.
- It’s important to address why we spend so much time on our phones too: sometimes we aren’t comfortable spending time with ourselves or with our own thoughts and that needs addressing and support, too.
Sleep is also something that I have never taken for granted, I had always been a good sleeper but since the pandemic my sleep routine slowly became worse and more disturbed, which I believe to be caused by a lack of physical and mental stimulation due to not getting enough exercise and social activity. I learned a lot from this session and have since adopted some of the advice and tips into my routine, which has since helped greatly improve my mental health.
A New Tomorrow Episode 1 – Talking about mental health and getting support (March 11th)
Our first session was all about talking about mental health and getting support, something we all agreed was vital when it came to young people’s mental health during this time. To read more, click here-
A New Tomorrow: Co-produced online symposium event. COVID-19’s impact on youth mental health. (25th March 2021)
If you’d like to watch our online symposium events. click here-