But here’s the dilemma: while we need sleep more than ever to bulletproof our immune systems in the face of coronavirus, the chaos it has caused has meant that for many of us, sleep is increasingly hard to come by.
“There are endless reasons why, as a nation, we’re not sleeping very well right now,” says Meadows. “First of all, there’s the huge change in routine. We’re going to bed later because we don’t have to wake up early to catch a train. Our days are more stressful because everybody is trying to adapt to working from home. On top of this, many workers are having to home school young children alongside their work.
“Some of us are drinking more than usual and then there’s the lack of exercise; we may have started off with good intentions to do a YouTube workout every morning, but as the weeks go and stress increases, this can drop off. And there’s a lack of downtime; we’re not able to read a book on our commute or go for lunch with a friend.”
Then there’s the fact that a family in lockdown doesn’t space and time away from each other. “Whether it’s bored teenagers, young children, or bickering couples going to bed on a row, there’s the potential for a lot of tension in the house throughout the day, which affects sleep. On the other end of things, there are older people who may be cut off from wider family members and lonely.
“Add to that the clocks went forward by an hour last month, which is also detrimental to sleep.”
And then, of course, there’s the biggest sleep thief of all: “We’re all so worried about the virus; whether we’re going to get it, or that somebody we love will. We’re worried about our jobs. There are so many stresses swirling around causing us to have fitful sleep, anxious dreams and insomnia.”
So how can you sleep more soundly?
Routine is everything
Sleep is regulated by our internal body clock, called the circadian rhythm. “Many of us have terrible routines at the moment: waking up late, working from the moment we wake up and look at our phones, staying up late to finish the work we didn’t have time to do in the day because we were looking after our children or trying to buy food.
“Now we’re going into week three, it’s vital to have a routine: go to bed at the same time each night, wake up at the same time and have your meals at the same time. It sounds simple, but it will reset your body clock and ensure better sleep.”
With that in mind, have a ‘fake commute’
Once the bane of our lives, many of us may be missing our daily commute. Perhaps it involved exercise if you walked or cycled to work, perhaps it gave you 40 minutes of peace to read your book with a flat white. “Either way, a commute plays an important part in our routine, and separates our working day from our leisure time,” says Meadows.
To avoid this, he suggests having a ‘fake commute’. “Every morning, before you start the day, take a ten minute walk around the block, staying safely away from others. In the evening, when you shut down your laptop, do the same to transition your mind from work to home time. The fresh air and exercise will help you sleep better, as will the sunlight on your skin which is important for good sleep.”