Everyone is experiencing this pandemic differently. For some, working from home and having to home-school children means that they’re busier than usual. For others, being furloughed or watching loved ones who are “essential” go out day after day means that they’re feeling anxious about the future.
Many of us are waking up at night with a brand new list of worries. How do we cope?
The problem isn’t just the lack of sleep; it’s what a lack of sleep can do to our health. Getting restful sleep, and enough of it, can help our immune system function optimally. It can also aid in our mental health and help us fight back against the depression and anxiety so many of us are feeling now.
Good sleep is not something we can take for granted, and it’s not something we can do without.
Why Aren’t We Sleeping Well?
Among the causes for our collective sleep disturbances are our disrupted schedules, our anxiety, and the prevalence of screens in our lives.
Lack of a Normal Schedule
One of the main reasons so many of us are experiencing sleep disturbances is that our normal schedule has been disrupted. It may be surprising, but our little routines, like dropping kids off at school or going to a weekly yoga class, give us “anchors” to organize our day around. Without these anchors, we may feel rudderless, out at sea. If you’re stuck at home and finding it easy to oversleep in the mornings, you may also be missing out on natural light or ignoring your body’s natural sleep rhythm.
There’s just no getting around it. We’re worried about losing loved ones to the coronavirus. We’re worried about the economy and the security of our jobs. We’re concerned about the impact this is having on our children. We’re worried about all of the unknowns that this pandemic brings with it: how long will quarantines last? Will the disease come back? Will we make it through another recession – or worse! This kind of uncertainty naturally keeps us tossing and turning. It can even worsen mental health issues for those of us who already have depression or anxiety disorders. Being cooped up at home can put even more strain on us as we all do whatever we can to make do.
Extra Time on Screens
If you’ve given in to your child’s request to just watch a movie or play one more game, you’re not alone. We’re all finding comfort and escape in a favorite show or a mindless app. Unfortunately, this extra screen time, especially late in the day, can affect our quality of sleep. This extra time on computers and smartphones can stimulate the brain and make it harder to fall asleep. In addition, the blue light from screens left on at night can actually make it harder for our body to produce melatonin, a hormone that aids in sleep.
Why Does Sleep Matter?
Sleep is important, even when there’s not a pandemic pressing our anxiety buttons. It offers wide-ranging benefits for both physical health and mental health. Here are just a few of the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep during this time:
Sleep improves your mood, energy levels, and mental health overall
You probably already know that a lack of sleep can make you irritable and sluggish. It can also worsen conditions like depression, anxiety disorder, and other mental health conditions.
Sleep improves your brain function
In addition to mental health benefits, sleep actually contributes to things like learning, complex thinking, and decision-making — all pretty important when you’re working or learning from home.
How to Get Better Sleep During this Pandemic
There are ways to calm your mind and get better sleep, even in a stressful time like this one. However, if you’ve tried the following tips and still wake up several times a night or experience sleepiness during the day, you may need help from a sleep specialist.
While some of your favorite places may be closed, our facility at Clayton Sleep is open. Contact us if you’d like more information about our sleep studies.
(1) Learn to relax.
For some, relaxation does not come easily. However, finding ways to relax can be a powerful ingredient in getting better sleep. If you haven’t found a method that works for you, we recommend trying different techniques like deep breathing, stretching, mindful meditation, yoga, or even quiet reading. Another tip? Avoid watching the news or spending too much time on social media before bedtime. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed by coronavirus-related news. It’s healthy and advisable to switch it off and turn your mind to calming thoughts.
(2) Create a bedtime routine and stick with it.
What’s good for children can be good for adults, too. If you have a set routine that you follow every night before bed, it can signal to your body that it’s time for sleep. Plus, a routine like this can make life feel a little bit normal again, even in an abnormal time like this one. Sleep experts recommend that you keep the same wake-up time, bedtime, and “wind-down” time. You may even want to do things in the same order. For example: wash your face and take 10 minutes to meditate before setting your alarm and going to bed.
(3) If you use a C-Pap, make sure your equipment is cleaned and sanitized regularly.
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and use a C-Pap, it’s important to clean and sanitize your device often. This will ensure that the device is working optimally. It’s also important to replace your equipment when necessary.
(4) Limit light and noise when you go to sleep.
Light helps our bodies regulate sleep and wakefulness, just as much as darkness does. If you’re finding it hard to sleep, you may need to take steps to let as little light into your bedroom as possible. In the daytime, open the curtains and make sure you go outdoors every once in a while to soak up that natural light.
(5) Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar before bed.
Another way to help ourselves get better sleep is by watching our diet. Be especially careful with alcohol and caffeine. Drinking too much wine or having an afternoon latte can disrupt your sleep and stress you out even more.
Contact Clayton Sleep Institute for Information on How to Get More Restful Sleep
If these tips don’t work for you, you may be facing something more serious. Don’t put your sleep issues off for another day. At this time, when Americans are facing so much extra stress, quality sleep can make a world of difference. We are open and available to find answers for your sleep troubles. Contact us today.