If you’ve been struggling to drift off lately, you’re not alone. Longer days and warmer weather can wreak havoc on our internal body clocks at the best of times, but high levels of anxiety brought about by the coronavirus pandemic have made sleep a battle for many.
Lockdown has been a perfect storm for sleep disruption. Though the pandemic has not affected us equally, fears of losing loved ones, losing livelihoods and falling prey to the virus are ever-present. Compounded with enormous disruption to routine and reduced access to support networks, higher levels of insomnia are an almost inevitable consequence.
NHS service Every Mind Matters have released a series of new resources to help people relax and wind down in the wake of the crisis, including some key tips from Oxford sleep expert, Professor Colin Epsie, whose research has informed this post.
It’s all personal
When it comes to sleep we are all programmed slightly differently.
Professor Epsie advises finding a schedule and environment that suits your needs. This means not worried about whether you’re getting a perfect eight hours or getting to bed before midnight every night.
For those living and/or working at home, try and stay out of the bedroom as much as possible during the day so it doesn’t take on connotations of stress and activity. If that isn’t an option for you, you could rearrange your space when your working day begins and finishes to signal a shift.
As plant lovers, it’s important for us to use plants to make our bedrooms calm and restorative areas. Our Bedroom Plants collection contains plants with characteristics that support sleep, such as being air-purifying, humidifying and reactive to circadian rhythms. But it’s also important to consider your own personal preferences and create a living environment that suits you.
Finding your rhythm
When it comes to sleep, regularity is just as important as quantity. Shifting between over and under-sleeping can be worse than sleeping consistently at a deficit. Although for night shift-workers, some disruption will be inevitable, developing the best sleep-hygiene possible will help promote health and wellbeing.
Picking a wake-up time and sticking to it – yes, even on weekends! - should train your body to maintain regular periods of restfulness and alertness, promising better-quality sleep at night and higher levels of energy during the day.
Can plants help you sleep better?
Plants have their own cellular internal clocks: when plants are deprived of light and other cues pertaining to the natural environment, they continue to behave according to the rhythms of the day.
If plants fluctuate according to circadian rhythms, and our own internal clocks are influenced by the environment, can having plants in the bedroom help promote better sleep patterns?
Some research supports this hypothesis. A study published in the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that indoor plants improved the quality of sleep and cognition in Alzheimer’s patients, whilst reducing agitation.
This may be related to the shared circadian nature of plants and humans, the calming effect that plants have, or another unknown property. But, if you want a good night’s sleep, testing the theory yourself couldn’t hurt!
The best plants for the bedroom
Our bedrooms tend to be dimly lit, so it's a good idea to choose a plant that is more tolerant of shade. The following plants are also noted for their air-purifying qualities which should also aid healthy sleep and help to reduce snoring!
We recommend going for plant families like Calatheas and Elephant Ears. These plants are adapted to the densely populated forests of South America, where overhanging canopies block out much of the natural light.
For more suggestions, check out our Bedroom Plants collection here.