Whether you are still in quarantine or venturing back out to be healthy at work, living and sleeping during the COVID-19 pandemic is an unconventional time for most. Common reasons that people are having trouble falling or staying asleep during this time are:
Disruption of a Regular Schedule
Many shift workers qualified as essential and have continued to work over the last few months, but your typical schedule was likely disrupted, and many were required to learn new ways to complete tasks to prevent the spread of COVID. For those whose position changed to be work-from-home, and may have included caring for children when camps and school were canceled, their schedules were also disrupted. This circumstance may have meant that a more flexible schedule was required to help your children and complete work for your job.
Change in Exercise Routine
Exercise is important to help people sleep; whether you are exercising differently or less often can be more difficult during this time. Over the last few months, many gyms closed temporarily, preventing those who had a consistent routine from exercising as usual.
Studies have shown that exercising raises the serotonin in the body, which is a neurotransmitter that, along with controlling our moods, regulates the sleep cycle and melatonin levels. Even if you aren’t comfortable visiting gyms as they reopen, there are many different online videos and health sources to help your exercise in the comfort of your home. Even a 30-minute walk around your neighborhood can help your body be healthier.
In addition to being more challenging to exercise, there has also been an increase in unhealthy habits like watching more tv or staying focused on a smartphone screen.
More Screen Time
During quarantine as many businesses were closed and it was recommended that only essential trips were made, so many retreated to spending more time on their phone or watching TV. The blue light from phones and tablets can promote wakefulness and make it more difficult to fall asleep. It’s important to limit screen time and try to begin a quiet time at least 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime.
During this time many also spent a lot of time listening, watching, and reading about the coronavirus in their community. In addition to the screen time this led to more emotional and mental health conditions that can impact sleep quality.
Mental Health Conditions
Pandemics are stressful, especially during the beginning, when there was a lot of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about coronavirus. Many have experienced increased feelings of depression or isolation during quarantine, and anxiety as the region reopens and people venture back out into the community. Stress is a natural prompt to make us unable to sleep or stay asleep and contributes to insomnia. Mental health conditions, specifically depression and anxiety, can disrupt sleep and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Also, a lack of sleep can lead to an increase in mood disturbances, including loss of motivation, shortened attention span, and moodiness.
Why is it important to get sleep?
Sleep helps your body and brain restore itself, and it helps your body maintain immune function. Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a night, and teenagers and children need even more at least 8-10 hours. Sleep improves brain function, and getting a good night’s sleep can help you focus, learn, and be more creative.
A recent study showed that a single night of 5 hours or less of sleep dropped the macrophage’s immune fighting function, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infections, from 100 % to 30%. We need a full 100% of our immune functioning to stay healthy as possible and to resist and fight disease.
What to do to help?
If you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep during the pandemic, there are several things you can do to help you sleep better.
- Step 1: Evaluate your sleep area – we recommend a cool room at 69 degrees, which is dark, and limited sound to a fan or noise machine. It may also help to limit caffeine and alcohol during the day and to turn off electronics before bed.
- Step 2: Manage your stress and anxiety – get help for any mental health conditions you have; telemedicine has increased access to mental health professionals. Taking breaks from COVID-19 news may also help.
- Step 3: Mediate – A mindfulness platform can help you learn to block out stress and help stop running thoughts that may be causing insomnia. 30 minutes at night or during the day can help displace thoughts.
- Step 4: Get help – Our sleep experts can help identify if you have a sleep disorder and prescribe treatments to help you rest. Our offices are open for in person visits, but we also have telemedicine services, and even offer home sleep testing.
Sleep is connected to your overall health; it’s especially important as we continue to move out of quarantine to recognize sleep issues and treat them appropriately. If you are having trouble sleeping or are experiencing excessive sleepiness during the day, contact our Expert Sleep offices to schedule an appointment.