The coronavirus and sleep

The coronavirus and sleep – the new normal and beyond

We have all been facing a “new normal” for the last six months, since the first UK lockdown in March 2020. People’s lives have been turned upside down with serious restrictions on social interactions. Also, job security and income have been affected, not to mention health worries about catching the virus. This has resulted in a huge surge of requests for mental health services, including help for poor sleep. With the return of students to schools and universities, there has been another surge in coronavirus cases in the UK, leading to increasing local lockdowns and the threat of tighter national social restrictions once again.

Uncertainty about the future and reduced social interactions can cause sadness, worry and anxiety, all of which mean it can be hard to get a good quality night’s sleep. For example, you might find that your mind is busy with worries as you lie in bed and try to sleep, or you might wake up in the night with disturbing, vivid dreams. These intrusive thoughts not only increase your anxiety levels, making it harder to sleep, but also the more you think about problems, the more likely you will stay awake trying to think about possible solutions and imagining worst case scenarios.

What can you do to help your sleep at this time?

Although the current situation may feel overwhelming, there are a number of things that you can do to relax and quieten your busy mind at night so that you can sleep well. Here are my top 6 coronavirus sleep tips, and read about why they are so important further down in this blog:

Top 6 coronavirus sleep tips:

  1. Make time during the day to worry. Otherwise your brain will do it for you at night instead of sleeping.

  2. Make your bedroom as relaxing for sleep as possible. Put away work laptops before bed and make sure that your bed is supportive and comfortable. It might be time to buy a new bed if your mattress is over 7 years old.

  3. Get outdoors at lunchtime for a walk in the sunshine. Our bodies need to see the sun in the late morning/midday to help us know the difference between day and night.

  4. Make time for some exercise. If you can’t do your usual gym class at this time, try something new that you can do. Exercise helps promote better sleep.

  5. Prioritise relaxing during the day and in the evening so that you aren’t as anxious at night. Slow deep breathing is a great relaxation technique, as is making time for self-care.

  6. Go to bed and set an alarm to wake up at the same time each day. Just because you can go to bed late and lie in until noon, doesn’t mean that it is good for you or your sleep.

Vivid dreams
Dreams spelled out in clouds

Many people have reported having vivid dreams that wake them up in the middle of the night and make it harder to go back to sleep. This is your brain trying to process the emotional impact of this global pandemic on your life. It does this during our dreaming sleep and it is a normal part of how our brains make sense of the world.

What you can do, to help minimise these vivid dreams, is to process what is going on during the day instead of at night. Get a blank note-book and find some time during the day to write down how you are feeling. You could use this time to keep a worry journal where you write down anything you are worrying about, or you could use it to write down what you have done that day and how you feel. You could even use the time to make a to-do list for the following day. All of these things are a good way of letting yourself express how you are feeling during the day, so that your brain won’t be doing this for you in your dreams. You might also find that you have a quieter mind as you are trying to fall asleep.

Pitfalls of working from home on sleep

With the “new normal” people have now been working from home for months now, and since the U-turn in government advice on going back into the office, this is likely to be the case for some time to come. There are advantages of working from home, such as you no longer have to waste time commuting to the office, however there are also potential problems. Some of which have a significant effect on your sleep.

Most people don’t have the luxury of having a separate office for each person in the house (especially if you have two parents and a couple of children all needing to work from home at the same time). Often this mean that your bedroom has to now provide two functions – both a room for sleeping and also a room for working.

And So To Bed white desk

In an ideal world, we would only use our bedrooms for sleep, since that way our bodies will automatically feel relaxed and sleepy when we go into our bedroom. However, if you have to use your bedroom for other things, make sure that you do what you can to make your bed and bedroom as comfortable and relaxing as possible. Consider investing in a beautiful desk for your bedroom so that you don’t work in your bed itself. You can choose a desk that adds positively to the aesthetic of your bedroom even when you are not working at it. Put work papers and laptops away before coming to bed so that you can’t see them from your bed as you are trying to sleep – or else your brain will be stressed thinking about all of your unfinished work. Also, as we are spending so much more time at home, think of a way to make your bed and bedroom a more desirable place to be. You could buy some new bedding, or think about whether it might be time to replace your bed and mattress. Although shops may be operating differently at the moment, most places are open online (, plus here at And So To Bed our stores are open in a covid safe way.

Also, when we are working from home, we may not be getting as much exercise as we were before, or we may not even be leaving the house at all. Even though you may not be able to meet people socially in the same way as you could before, try to make sure that you get outside the house for a walk at lunchtime at least. This will help you stretch your legs and also see the sunlight – which is vital for helping us sleep well at night.

Coronavirus and mental health

If you are suffering with anxiety or depression, there are a number of places to turn. Speak to your GP, or Mind is also a great resource . Plus, if you are struggling and want to speak to someone right now then the Samaritans is a great organisation to help .


Dr Lindsay Browning from Trouble Sleeping is a sleep expert, Chartered Psychologist and neuroscientist. She is the Sleep Ambassador for And So To Bed. She is the author of the self-help sleep book Navigating Sleeplessness and can be found on all social media @DrBrowningSleep. Browning works with individuals and companies to educate about better sleep and to resolve sleep problems such as insomnia. You can follow her on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Posted by Dr Lindsay Browning
28th September 2020

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