How self-isolation can disrupt your sleep cycle - and how to tackle it

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By Kitty Lawton, First Year, English

The Croft Magazine // Maintaining a regular sleep cycle in isolation can be difficult. With nothing scheduled to get up for in the mornings, it's easy to slip into less-than-ideal sleeping habits.

It is no secret that poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health, a fact that I’ve learnt all too well during my time in self-isolation.

With the current pandemic deteriorating all normality and our every-day routines being blown out the window, it has become too easy to lose sight of our goals, daily structures and productivity. Truthfully, after weeks of minimal movement and hours spent watching Netflix in front of the TV, even washing your hair can become a colossal task. But, for me, the thing I lost sight of the most was the importance of a sleep schedule.

Having nothing much to wake up for can really take its toll. Alongside forgetting what day of the week it was, I found myself hitting the hay at increasingly ridiculous times, initially diverging from my usual, self-set bedtime of 12am and sleeping at around 2, to not even considering this human urgency until gone 4 o’clock in the morning. Instead, re-reading Twilight or Facetiming a friend with a similarly messed up sleep cycle seemed like the superior option.

Waking up at normal times means that you are more likely to make full use of the day

I have now put this down to one main reason – there was no real motivation to go to sleep.

After all, isolation means no 9am lectures, no plans to eat breakfast with your friends, and no need to wake up early and make yourself look presentable before spending the day surrounded by others. As a result, I no longer felt any pressure to get in my eight hours.

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But, as I discovered, going to bed late and waking up late can have a huge impact on your productivity, which as I also found, hugely impacts your mental health.

Day after day I woke up late with a feeling of lethargy as well as an unambitious voice in my head which said, ‘Well…most of the day has been and gone now, so you might as well just start being productive tomorrow.’ And, for someone who has been prone to spells of anxiety since childhood, days of unproductivity leave you with far too much time to participate in my least favourite activity of all time – overthinking.

Eventually, enough was enough; every series on Netflix had been watched, every thought overthought. And the solution was clear; in order to return to the routine that has been temporarily removed, I must look for ways to imitate it within the home. Of course, this means forcing yourself to put a relatively strict sleep schedule back in place, regardless of the urge not to sleep because there won’t be a whole lot going on in the morning.

However, as I’ve come to realise, this attitude is completely wrong. There are in fact many things to do. But, in order to realise this, you must break free from the sleep-at-four-am mindset and regain a grasp on normality. Waking up at normal times means that you are more likely to make full use of the day, undertaking exercise (only leaving the house once a day of course), university work, volunteering and other productive activities.

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By all means, this may not be easy at first; a bad sleep cycle is hard to break, but going to sleep half an hour earlier each night until you reach your desired sleep time has been proven the most efficient way to do it.

And isn’t it ironic, that when things are ‘normal’ we constantly say to ourselves, ‘If only I had a free week to get this done’ – well now is the time. And as I have learned, a close-to-normal-as-possible sleep cycle really is the best way of staying productive.

Featured image: Epigram / Kitty Lawton


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