The importance of sleep in the wake of COVID-19

During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, our entire way of life has been affected for the most part. Businesses have been forced to close, schools are closed, events are postponed/cancelled, and our health has been affected in a big way. In addition to closures in the outside world, health complications due to the virus have been widely publicized. However, there are still things that haven’t been discussed as much as others. Our nightly sleep is one of the most important, yet least discussed, parts of this pandemic.  

It is well-known how much sleeping affects our daily lives. During complicated and stressful times such as these, sleep becomes even more important for us to function effectively. Our entire body relies on a good night’s sleep, but especially our immune systems and mental health. Here is some information about why your sleep may be affected right now as well as some tips that you can incorporate to get your all-important sleep during COVID-19. 

Why your sleep is affected 

Disruption of daily routine 

As mentioned earlier, the whole pandemic has turned nearly everyone’s way of life on its head. Social distancing, closures, quarantines, stay-at-home orders, you name it and it is something that we have not experienced before. These major changes can take effect anyone of any age, especially someone that is used to being outside of their residence for most of the day. Going from being in the outside world for 10 hours a day to stuck inside for 24 can take a major toll on your physical and mental health, as well as your sleep cycle. You may even forget what time it is on occasion. Try your best to observe time cues and let your body rest when it is natural to do so. This can help you rest more effectively. 

Anxiety 

Anxiety is something that many people unfortunately experience daily, even without the threat of a global pandemic. In unique times like these, you may feel or know someone who feels even more anxious than usual. You may be anxious about catching the Coronavirus, spreading it unknowingly, about your family/friend’s health, economics, etc. We have got a long way to go before we can effectively treat the disease, so anxiety may continue for a long while. Anxiety while attempting to sleep can cause sleeplessness, headaches, tossing and turning, and more which leads to a loss of valuable sleep. 

Depression 

Like anxiety, many suffer from depression whether there is a widespread crisis or not. This depression can be deepened as the pandemic continues and you are stuck in the house. If you happen to know someone who is sick or has passed away due to the virus, you may want to get out of the house. That is a natural response that is only made harder by the stay-at-home orders. Grief and depression are known to take a heavy mental toll, which can lead to severe sleep problems. If you or someone you know is having a difficult time, please call 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ for additional resources.   

Increased stress 

Stress comes in many forms and is often amplified when there is little that we can do to fix the current problem. Even though family time is nice, more stress may be caused by having to work from home and constantly be with others. Some consider work as a time to themselves, but that is taken away during a pandemic. Other things that can increase stress include parenting children who are permanently home from school, increased family obligations, lack of time with friends, and more. These causes of stress have the potential to ruin your sleep and make you more tired during the day. 

Unusual amount of screen time 

In a time like this, it is very important to have your electronic devices present for news updates. But if you are working from home all day, checking your phone constantly, watching TV, and playing video games, you may be exposing yourself to way too much blue light. This screen time can affect your sleep even more later in the day, with it being a big negative right before you go to sleep. Set yourself a limit on screen time if possible, as this will allow you to wind down and sleep better.  

Sleep tips 

Create a sleep schedule 

Although the prospect of sleeping in late everyday may be tempting, it is important to put yourself on a constant schedule by waking up as if you had to go to work. You may also want to stay up extra late at night, but choosing a consistent bedtime will benefit your sleep, health, and happiness levels. A constant schedule of these things even during quarantine will improve your sleep and overall health. 

Expose yourself to natural light 

Exposing yourself to natural light, as opposed to harmful blue light, is actually very important in keeping your body in a natural rhythm. If your body can tell what time it is by the amount of light, you will begin to be tired at an appropriate time rather than all the time if you stay in the dark. Try to get outside and get a bit of natural light if it is safe and possible to do so. Your body’s circadian rhythm will appreciate it and allow you to rest better. 

Stay active when you can 

Even though most gyms are closed during quarantine, it is still important to your health and sleep quality to get daily exercise. You can take a walk, while following social distancing guidelines, as well as look up many tutorials online. By exerting your energy, you will naturally feel more tired and ready to rest when it is time. However, do not exercise right before bed; your brain may become too active to let you rest effectively.  

Be kind to others and keep connections strong 

Your behavior towards others may not seem like it will affect your sleep, but it doesBy being kind to your loved ones, coworkers, and others, your stress and its harmful effects will be reduced. Regardless of how negative this situation is, there is still positivity out there that you can help spread. Even though you cannot in person, check up on those you love via technology and show that you care. Your body will thank you later as you get better sleep.  

Maintain a healthy diet 

Unsurprisingly, a good diet is another key to getting good sleep. Snacking all the time because you are at home may seem like a good idea, but it can negatively affect your health and sleep. Things including caffeine and alcohol can easily disrupt your sleep pattern and make it harder to get quality rest. Watch what you eat as it can have a big impact on your mood, sleep, and overall health. 

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