Getting Good Sleep During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has upended many of our lives, from the ways we shop and eat, to how we work and socialize. Now, it’s affecting our sleep.
While there is little data on the link between sleep and COVID-19 specifically, studies show a lack of sleep is directly related to a weakened immune system. Research shows that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick when exposed to viruses like the common cold.
Additionally, sleep plays a vital role in our mental health. Poor sleep can impact your memory, judgement, thought process, productivity, energy, and overall mood. It can cause irritability, anger, and even affect your ability to cope with stress. Elevated stress and an overload of information can keep the mind racing and elevate the body’s arousal system response, triggering insomnia.
People are spending every waking moment getting one last look at their screens. The blue light from these screens tells the brain to stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin, which can lead to trouble falling asleep.
Additionally, lack of daytime structure can upset your nighttime sleep schedule as well. Inconsistent bedtimes and wake times can shift the urge, to sleep, making the ability to fall asleep less predictable.Finally, low moods, more downtime and low energy can increase long napping, making it harder to fall asleep at night.
Sleep is crucial at this time. Here’s how changing habits can help improve your sleep:
Wake up at the same time each day. Establishing a structure helps to set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep, so try to also be consistent about when you eat, exercise, and spend time outside.
Minimize nap times. Naps should be less than 30 minutes and before 2 p.m. If you have any trouble falling asleep, avoid napping in general.
Reserve your bedroom for sleep. Where your bedroom was once solely a place for sleep, it may now also be somewhere you work, exercise, or spend most of your time. The more you can restrict your bedroom to just sleep, the more your mind will associate it with sleep and the easier it will be to unwind at night.
Enjoy caffeine in the morning only. Caffeine can stay in the body for eight hours, which is longer than most people think. Also, while alcohol can make you sleepy at first, it can wake you up as it becomes metabolized in the middle of the night. Avoid it within three hours of bedtime.
Try breathing exercises. Use ten slow deep breaths to fall asleep. It should be a slow inhale through your nose for 3 to 4 seconds and a slow exhale through your mouth for 3 to 4 seconds.
Don’t watch the news before bed. Turn off your devices one hour before bedtime. Leave your cell phone charging in the kitchen so you are not tempted to look at news updates during the night.
While sleep plays an important role for our mental health, try not to stress about sleep! Worrying about sleep turns into more stress. Instead, do your best to get to bed on time and follow the tips above.