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Coronavirus staff guidance University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Sleep and hand hygiene

Last updated: 29 June 2023 at 09:29

Sleep hygiene 

With unprecedented changes due to the challenges of coronavirus, the importance of sleep can be missed.

Sleep is essential to physical health and effective functioning of the immune system, part of feeling well and feeling happy. It’s also a key promoter of emotional well-being and mental health, helping to beat back stress, depression and anxiety.

Whether you’ve had sleep problems before COVID-19 or if they’ve only come on recently, here are some steps to improve your sleep.

Steer clear of food that can be disruptive right before sleep

Heavy or rich foods, citrus fruits and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion for some people. When this occurs close to bedtime, it can lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep.

Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime

When it comes to alcohol, moderation is key. While alcohol is well-known to help you fall asleep faster, too much close to bedtime can disrupt sleep in the second half of the night.

Keep a regular sleep routine

Wake up at the same time each day, weekends included. Set an alarm clock to help develop a good habit. Use music, lights or a simple bleep.

Get regular exercise each day

As little as ten minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve sleep quality.

Keep the bedroom dark enough to encourage sleep

Bright light from lamps, phone and TV screens can make it difficult to fall asleep, so turn those lights off or adjust them when possible.

Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable

Mattress and pillows should be comfortable. The bedroom should be cool for optimal sleep.

Keep your bedroom clean of distractions

Where possible, leave tech gadgets outside and make the space neat, tidy and welcoming.

Call the employee helpline

If you are struggling to sleep and want to speak with someone you can call the Employee Assistance Programme 24 Hour Confidential Helpline for free.

Tel: 0800 030 5182

Hand hygiene

Repeated exposure to water and soap, alcohol hand gel and other detergents can cause dry skin. In some cases irritant contact dermatitis (a form of eczema) can occur which causes the skin to itch, become sore or red, develop small blisters or painful cracks (fissures) and in more severe cases, functional problems using your hands.

Hand care tips

  • Wash your hands using soap and water. This can be difficult for people with dry and cracked skin, but please follow Trust guidance
  • Dry your hands thoroughly after washing by patting them dry, not rubbing
  • Moisturisers (emollients) are an essential part of replacing the oils in your hands or treating hand dermatitis. They help repair the damaged outer skin and lock moisture inside the skin, making it soft and supple again. They should be applied generously after handwashing, repeatedly through the day, and whenever the skin feels dry
  • Wards and teams can order supplies of Dermol cream from the Trust pharmacy. Moisturisers will be supplied from Health and Well-being Hubs
  • Some people find overnight moisturising treatments beneficial. Apply a generous layer of a plain moisturiser just before you go to bed, then put on a pair of clean cotton gloves and leave overnight
  • When the hands are going to come into contact with water or detergents, but not specifically washing the hands, such as when washing up, shampooing a child’s hair, or using cleaning products, wearing gloves that provide a barrier will help to keep the skin’s barrier intact
  • If you have severe hand dermatitis or suspect an infection, for example, your skin is oozing you may need to see your GP. You may need prescription treatments to reduce inflammation
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