March is a month when our thoughts often turn to Spring, to lighter mornings and the joyous feeling of longer days. The darker nights of Winter begin to recede and we start to feel more awake.
Having said all that, it’s also the month in which World Sleep Day takes place (that was on 19th March) and is National Bed Month. This month long celebration is organised by The Sleep Council who aim to raise awareness of how sleep is a vital component of our health and wellbeing. This is something that our colleagues at the William Harvey Library, based at Nuneaton’s George Eliot Hospital highly agree with.
During Lockdown, we’ve held several Twitter #HealthChats with Rayanne and Lisa from @GEHLibrary, covering a wide variety of topics and our most recent session, earlier in March was all about sleep – how to get a good night’s sleep, tips for managing anxiety if that is disturbing your sleep and resources to use for advice and support.
For today’s blog, we’re revisiting this chat and bringing together all the fantastic resources Rayanne and Lisa shared with us (we’ve also created a Twitter Moment for this #HealthChat and each of our previous ones so you can revisit them at any time – you’ll find them all here).
Before we get into the detail, let’s introduce Rayanne who is a Librarian and Lisa who is Clinical Librarian at the William Harvey Library in Nuneaton. They work with health professionals everyday and help colleagues and the public to find reliable information about health matters. They evaluate sources of information and signpost to information, resources and advice from the NHS website among others.
During our #HealthChats, they have given us lots of useful links for a wide variety of health matters, though their first piece of advice on any health matter is to speak to your GP if you have something that is worrying you.
March 2021 #HealthChat – Sleep
During our #HealthChats, we pose various questions to Rayanne and Lisa who then share their knowledge of reliable health information and trusted websites. For our first question in March, we asked about what you can do if, like many of us at the moment, you’re having trouble sleeping and what resources can we look for online.
We all feel and function so much better on a good night’s sleep so the first resource Rayanne and Lisa pointed us to was The Sleep Council. Their 7 Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep guide has lots of great advice. There are also lots of sleeping tips that may help if you find your sleep is interrupted. There are tips for parents, tips for shift workers, for the Over 55s and for anyone suffering from jet lag (obviously that’s one not many of us will need at the moment, but hopefully will be useful in the future!) You’ll also find a collection of ‘nodcasts‘ – a series of sound recordings of background noise that might help you fall asleep.
The EveryMindMatters website is another great place to look. It has a wealth of information on understanding sleep problems, how to spot the signs, causes and support. You will also find information and advice on many other health and wellbeing matters here too so it’s worth exploring.
Having difficulty sleeping can impact us at any age. For parents and carers who might be worried about children/young people not sleeping, The Sleep Charity website has lots of useful information. You’ll find advice for parents of younger children here and there are a number of short videos aimed at teenagers in their Teen Sleep Hub site. In the Hub, you’ll also find a link to download a free eBook (who doesn’t love a freebie) and advice for parents/carers. There’s a live chat and a helpline available on Tuesdays and Thursdays too.
Having a bedtime routine that is relaxing and eases you into sleep can also be useful for people of all ages and that’s where Warwickshire Libraries can come in – part of that routine can be reading or listening to a book.
Think back to your childhood – did you ever have a bedtime story and swore you’d be awake for the whole thing but actually you fell asleep halfway through? If you have children, you may know about Booktrust’s ‘Bath, Book, Bed’ routine which offers advice if you’re struggling with your child’s night-time routine. You’ll find lots of books on our library shelves and on BorrowBox to help with the ‘book’ section.
For grownups too, our shelves and BorrowBox collection have books that could help. There are non-fiction sleep guides if you need resources of information or you can find something to escape into.
Although reading an eBook might not be ideal (depending on your device, the blue light of your screen might not be conducive to falling asleep – see these tips from The Sleep Charity about sleep hygiene including reducing screen time before sleep), you’ll find a wide variety of titles to choose from.
If you borrow physical books, if after a few pages, you find you’re drowsy and at risk of the book hitting you on the end of the nose (a good reason not to read giant hardbacks in bed!), you could try an eAudio title instead. You’ll find a wide variety of both fiction and non-fiction titles in our collections.
We have ASMR titles to listen to and stories for young and old to help you drift off into dreamland (although don’t pick something scary if you’re prone to bad dreams!)
More advice to help you sleep
The next question we posed to Rayanne and Lisa was what reliable advice they could point us to to help with getting a better night’s sleep? Again, they shared a wealth of useful resources. The Sleep Council was mentioned again as they have a useful video on ways you can make changes to your bedroom which can aid healthy sleep.
The Sleep Charity also offer tips, including many aimed at those of us who work shifts. As Rayanne and Lisa pointed out, it can be even harder to get quality sleep when working a shift pattern. They also pointed us towards a self-help guide from NHS Inform Scotland. This guide uses CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and expert advice along with a number of activities to help you understand and tackle sleep problems. There is a section on calming a busy mind which could be very useful.
Anxiety and sleep
We know that many of us may be experiencing feelings of anxiety at the moment. Not sleeping can be both caused by and cause anxiety and can become a continuous cycle that can negatively impact wellbeing. We therefore asked Rayanne and Lisa what resources are there to help us manage our anxiety?
To answer our question, Rayanne and Lisa confirmed that there’s a definite link between anxiety and insomnia. They pointed us towards information from Healthline that discusses this link in more detail. If you’re not sleeping and are experiencing anxiety, it can be hard to know which comes first though – it’s a chicken and egg scenario. Lack of sleep can lead to physical and mental health problems, so Rayanne and Lisa’s advice is don’t hesitate to seek advice from your GP if things continue.
The NHS website is useful for all manner of health and wellbeing queries and if you’re experiencing insomnia, there’s lots of information available there. They have a handy short self-assessment that you can fill out. You receive a score and tips to improve your sleep. NHS Inform Scotland also have an anxiety self-help guide to work through, useful if you’re coping at home.
You’ll also find titles about managing anxiety and supporting your wellbeing in our Reading Well collections. There are a number of collections aimed at all ages that cover many topics. All the titles in the collection have been specially chosen by health professionals and people with lived experiences. You can find out more about the collections on the Reading Well website or on our Health and Wellbeing pages.
Thank you to Lisa and Rayanne for sharing a wealth of useful and helpful information. As mentioned at the beginning, you can revisit our previous #HealthChats on Twitter and keep an eye out for future collaborations between Lisa, Rayanne and Warwickshire Libraries.
In the meantime, if you do have something that is worrying you about your health and wellbeing at this time, do contact your GP. If you’re not sure where your nearest GP is, visit the NHS website to find out.