How have you been sleeping over the last few months? If you have been struggling with insomnia or restless sleep since the pandemic began, you are not alone. Studies indicate that people around the world have been having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and getting quality sleep during this unprecedented time. Increased stress and anxiety, paired with changes in daily routines, have all contributed to lack of good sleep.
If you are struggling with poor sleep, you probably have a lot of questions. What are the reasons why sleeping during the pandemic is so difficult? What are the consequences of poor sleep? What can I do about it? Read on to learn more about sleep challenges during the pandemic and get expert tips on ways you can improve your chances of a restful night of sleep.
Why am I getting such bad sleep?
The pandemic, the economy and the uncertainty that we’ve experienced globally over the last few months, and will continue to experience for the foreseeable future, brings with it feelings of anxiety and fear. Many people have been feeling symptoms of depression and a general exhaustion. Some people have lost jobs, while many others have had to take on additional responsibilities like childcare and education. The upheaval of daily routines and the decrease in interactions with others contributes to an overall feeling of helplessness to do anything about it. All of these factors contribute to the quality and quantity of sleep we get.
Even people who, on paper, have more time on their hands are experiencing sleep troubles. Many people no longer have a daily commute or the need to be up at 5:30 every morning. Yet, they still can’t get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Again, our mental and physical exhaustion impacts our sleep and even causes chemical changes in our brains that cause us to have restless, interrupted sleep.
What are the consequences of poor sleep?
Sleep is vital to our health and well-being, both physically and mentally. We need sleep to perform to way we are meant to perform. Sleep has very real effects on our ability to think clearly and process information. It boosts concentration and productivity. It even impacts our emotions and ability to have positive interactions with others.
Sleep can also impact our bodies on a more physiological level. Sleep has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, inflammation and diabetes. People who consistently get quality sleep have healthier body weights and better appetite control. Finally, sleep has been linked to healthy immune systems. Getting the right amount of sleep can help you fight infection and defend your body against viruses that make you sick.
What can I do about it?
So now that we understand why sleep has been hard to come by for many people during the pandemic, let’s find out how you can improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep. Here are tips to help you improve the quality and quantity of restful sleep you get each night:
Get on a schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning. Even if you are staring at the ceiling all night, the routine will help your body feel a sense of normalcy.
- Avoid the use of technology at least one hour before bedtime.
- Make your bedroom just for sleep. Do not watch TV in bed or read books. Teach your body that your bed is for sleeping.
- Establish a nighttime routine. Incorporate soothing music, meditation, candles or essential oils to signal to your body that it is time to wind down.
- Clean up any clutter in your bedroom. Clutter can cause anxiety which can make it even harder to fall asleep.
- Purchase a fan or a white noise machine to eliminate any sounds or distractions that could disrupt your sleep.
- Make sure to get exercise throughout the day. At least 30 minutes of activity can help you burn extra energy and help you sleep more soundly.
- Avoid caffeine or high-sugar beverages at least 3-4 hours before bed.
If you have been struggling to sleep, know that you are not alone. There are many reasons why this is happening right now that have everything to do with the uncertainty that the pandemic brings.
Getting an understanding of why this is happening is a great first step to making changes. We encourage you to follow a few (or all!) of the tips above. If you are still struggling to get a good night of sleep, call your doctor to determine if there are other reasons for your sleep issues.