Through the COVID crisis, our sleep might have changed, for many of us it's gotten worse and for the lucky few, it has actually got better. Like much of the nation at the moment, the Beingwell Family are currently working from home. A common theme of questions that have come up has been around coronavirus (who isn’t talking about that at the moment?), and specifically how it can impact on our sleep. We’re not surprised that many are struggling to fall asleep with racing minds and constant worry with the situation we’re going through right now. So, it’s worth mentioning that coronavirus isn’t a sleep issue, it’s an issue with stress and anxiety and this can impact on falling and staying asleep.
Why does it impact our ability to sleep?
Well, in order to drop off and stay sleeping soundly, we need to have a drop in core temperature and heart rate. As we all know, feelings of stress and anxiety have quite the opposite effect. When we’re anxious, our heart pounds and our minds race, increasing cortisol levels in the body. And of course, this is the worst thing that our bodies can do when we’re trying to fall asleep! It stops our body from completing the right process to snooze.
How can we combat this?
Try and have a consistent wake up time. If you do have a lie-in, make sure it’s no longer than an hour and a half from your usual wake up time - don’t be tempted to snooze your alarm for hours and hours!
Light exposure. Getting exposure to light early in the day can help our body set itself up for the day. This then improves our ability to fall asleep at night by having a positive impact on our circadian rhythm.
Exercise. Getting outside and moving our bodies when we first wake up is great for our bodies and sleep, or even just opening the windows and getting that natural light in to again remind our bodies that it’s now day time.
Eat healthily. Don’t be tempted to snack or eat lots of junk food, continue to get in fresh food and try to build our immune system.
Avoid napping. Especially if you’re not someone who usually naps, and try to avoid them completely after 2pm as it can affect our bodies ability to fall asleep at night.
Consider what you’re watching before bed. We’re all worried about coronavirus, you’re not alone in that. As we move towards bedtime, try to calm those levels of anxiety. If you are reading about it, attempt to find reliable sources of information, and make sure you’re reading things to give you reassurance that this will come to an end. Particularly in the hour before bedtime, whoever you’re with try not to be talking about coronavirus or watch the late night news. These things just tend to raise levels of anxiety and as we mentioned, makes it harder to fall asleep.
If you are watching something before bed, don’t make it something that will encourage anxious thoughts! Maybe avoid Outbreak, Contagion or 28 Days Later. These things are not going to help you sleep! Try watching something repetitive, trashy or funny. Ask yourself if it makes you feel safe and relaxed.
Try the 30 minute rule. If you do struggle to fall asleep at night, follow the 30 minute rule. This is when, if you’re not asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed, you start again. Try listening to something soothing, focus on your breathing, read a calming book and then try to drop off after.
Summary: The pandemic is increasing our stress levels which can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. It's disrupted our routine meaning that work and homeschooling can blur into our personal time. Try and avoid napping if we're sleeping poorly, relax and wind down at the end of the day and focus on being cooler before bed. Sleep tight.