Sleep is a critical aspect of our physical and mental health, and right now getting the proper amount of sleep is more important than ever amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Maintaining a sleep schedule of 7-9 hours will heighten your brain function, enhance your mood, improve your mental health, and even empower your immune system. In fact, sleep aids in the production of T-cells, white blood cells that are crucial in fighting infectious diseases like COVID. However, while the necessity of proper sleep increases during the pandemic, people’s sleep schedules seem to only be declining.
Why are people facing sleep challenges during COVID?
1. Anxiety and Worry
Increased feelings of anxiety and uncertainty during the pandemic will largely contribute to the disruption of your sleep schedule. A racing mind will keep the body tossing and turning, ultimately making it impossible to fall asleep. Whether you’re up worrying about financial problems, catching the virus, or the health of your loved ones, almost everyone’s stress levels have increased during the outbreak.
2. Disruption of daily life
With schools closing and people working from home, many have experienced a loss of daily structure in their lives during quarantine. People no longer have important “anchors” in their day, such as dropping kids at school, going to the gym, or going into the office for work. This can make it extremely difficult to keep track of time, ultimately disrupting your sleep schedule. You may find yourself waking up later than normal without your school or work alarm in the morning, but oversleeping can be just as detrimental as lack of sleep. Sleeping more than 7-9 hours a night can result in feeling groggy, irritable, unfocused, and unmotivated throughout the day.
3. Excess screen time
With our normal activities gone and more free time on our hands, many find themselves glued to the TV or phone. However, this extra screen time can harm your sleep schedule, as it delays the body’s internal clock. It suppresses the release of melatonin, your body’s sleep-inducing hormone. Ultimately, this delays the onset of your REM sleep, which in turn reduces your total amount of sleep and compromises your alertness.
Guidelines to sleeping well during COVID
- Set your schedule/routine — It’s better for your body to adapt to a consistent sleep schedule. Even if you don’t have to get up for work or school, designate a wake up time in the morning and a bed time at night.
- Reserve your bed for sleep — Force your mind to associate your bed with sleep. If you are working from home, do your work at a desk or a coffee shop rather than from bed.
- Be careful with naps — It may be tempting to spend your newfound free time napping the afternoon away, but this can mess up your sleep schedule and confuse your internal clock. Especially try to avoid long naps later in the day.
- Relaxation techniques — Use relaxation techniques that work for you to cope with stress. If you find yourself tossing and turning for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed and engage in a relaxing activity, such as reading a book or taking a hot bath.
- Watch your screen time — Be aware of how much time you spend watching TV or scrolling on your phone. Give yourself a designated time to put away your phone for the night and grab a book or magazine instead.