A good night’s sleep is paramount for the health of your brain and body. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, sowing anxiety and worry along with it, getting a healthy amount of quality sleep probably isn’t as easy as it used to be. And getting good sleep is more important now than ever.
If we’re not sleeping we can reduce our immune system, we can increase inflammation in the body, which we know can then lead to being more vulnerable to various viruses or whatever might be in our environment. In other words, your quality of sleep plays a direct role in your body’s ability to keep you safe from the novel coronavirus.
So, in addition to all the recommended hygiene behaviors to ward off the disease, like handwashing and social distancing, consider your own sleep health as another way to stay protected. Here are a few helpful tips to help wind down and get a good night’s rest, even during these stressful and uncertain times.
1. Maintain a regular routine
Many people have had their daily lives totally upended as a direct result of this pandemic. Some have been laid off. Some are adjusting to working from home. Others are now juggling work and family as they look after children who are now out of school for the remainder of the school year.
No matter how your life has been affected, it’s of the utmost importance to keep a regular routine in order to get good sleep.
If you’re working from home, get up at the same time and get dressed. You might just be going to the next room or working from your bedroom, but just have that same sense of routine and normalcy, which will help you feel less disrupted.
2. Don’t nap excessively
If you’ve found yourself in a self-quarantine or work-from-home situation due to the pandemic, the bedroom or couch might end up calling — a little too frequently.
Adding to the importance of establishing a routine for yourself, make sure you’re not napping excessively, as this can even make you sleepier during the day, potentially altering or disrupting a regular sleep routine.
Having a normal sleep routine should help to “anchor your entire day,” said LeMonda. Instead of napping, use that healthy routine to get up early and start getting things done.
3. Get some exercise (just not before bed)
Yes, your gym is probably closed, but exercise should still be part of your daily life. Daily exercise is still just as important, especially for sleep. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders may have you feeling that your options are more limited, but there are a number of ways you can effectively exercise without leaving your home.
“Getting exercise during the day is really important,” said LeMonda, “We know that that’s tied to improved sleep for pathophysiological reasons: We will feel more tired if we’ve exerted ourselves. We will also feel more accomplished that day as well, so there will be a sense of achievement before bed.”
Just don’t exercise within a few hours of bedtime because the stimulation of physical exertion can make it harder to get to sleep.
4. Structure your news intake
It’s nearly impossible to escape the constant distressing flow of COVID-19 news and information that permeates daily life right now. And yes, constantly consuming a 24/7 pandemic news cycle is likely to ratchet up your anxiety and affect your sleep.
“Whenever we go to the news, it’s always about the novel coronavirus and it’s quite upsetting. It’s reality, but it’s also something that can increase our anxiety. I would say schedule and structure the times when you check your phone for news updates,” said Singh.
Be diligent in limiting how many times per day you check your phone, and for how long, to read news related to the pandemic. Singh also recommends treating the news similar to how you might caffeine: don’t consume it before bed.
5. Limit blue light exposure near bedtime
The internet has proved to be an invaluable tool for communication and entertainment during a time in which people across the world have been mandated to self-quarantine or shelter in place. However, staring at a screen all day is not helpful when you’re trying to fall asleep.
“We do recommend that within the hour prior to sleep that the person tries to unplug and not really be watching TV, not being on their phone, and certainly not watching anything that could be anxiety-provoking,” said LeMonda.
Instead, she recommends activities like reading a book or listening to music as means of entertainment before bed.
6. Avoid drinking excessive alcohol
“We might feel like if we drink we’ll feel better in the moment and feel like we’re passing out, we actually don’t get good, restful sleep,” said LeMonda. “It’s not going to be that restful sleep where you wake up and feel like you can take on the day.”
Alcohol also isn’t a healthy coping mechanism for dealing with stress and anxiety either. The one-two punch of alcohol and poor sleep can have a real effect on diminishing the immune system.