5 Tips to Promote Healthy Sleep During the Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has altered our daily routines. And, naturally, with the introduction to a life stressor, we do our best to adapt to the change. Sometimes, the ways in which we are coping can inadvertently impact our sleep!
Are you having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or are you waking up earlier than anticipated? You might be experiencing symptoms of insomnia, and there are a few helpful tips that you can implement to get your sleep schedule back on track.
We know that sleep is important for our general well being. There’s been countless research around what happens when we are sleep deprived, as well as how this can play a role in mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and ADHD. For those of us who are predisposed to mental illness, sleep deprivation can be detrimental to our general well being. It can impact our day to day functioning, cognitive health, and emotional baseline. Okay, so sleep is important, we get it! But what can be done to boost your sleep hygiene?
First, let’s think about the circadian rhythm, or our internal clock. The circadian rhythm is driven by our behaviors and our environment. A fool proof way to reset your internal clock is by waking up at the same time every day, including weekends! Get that alarm clock set, and consider a ritual to start off your day. This ritual could be dream journaling, a quick yoga session, or even just getting up to make yourself a healthy breakfast!
Get Your Body Moving
Yes, we are in the midst of a pandemic. Most of us feel limited in what we can do and how we can exert our energy. So, it makes sense to feel a little sedentary, but that could be impacting your sleep schedule! Try to get at least 15 minutes of exercise each day. Be open with how you define exercise! This could just look like you dancing to your favorite songs, because, hey, that will definitely work up a sweat.
Consider Your Diet
When considering sleep, we have to be aware of what we are putting into our bodies and how it can be playing a role on a biological level. Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine will interfere with your goal of promoting healthy sleep habits. Some folks will say “well, I can’t fall asleep unless I have my drink or a smoke!”. And while that may be something that has been conditioned, these substances could also be the source of your sleepless nights! When it comes to caffeine, be mindful of how much you are consuming. It may be best to cut off caffeine intake by 1pm and switch over to a non-caffeinated beverage to get you through the rest of your day.
Follow The Sun
Melatonin is the hormone that drives our sleep-wake cycle. When you are in a dark environment, you might find yourself starting to yawn or feel sleepy. This is because melatonin is being released into your bloodstream, preparing your body for sleep! It’s important to take notes from nature, and allow the setting sun to guide the ways that you are keeping your space lit when you’re indoors. If it’s dark outside and all the lights are on in your house, your body is being tricked into thinking it’s time to remain up. Dim the lights and set the tone so that you can naturally feel sleepy and ready for bed.
This may be the most challenging tip for some folks, but it’s worth harping on: technology should be avoided in the bed! If you are in bed, in a dark room, with your bright phone screen or TV beaming, your body will have a more difficult time falling asleep because of the light source, and because of the stimulation. Remember: try to limit your screen time when you’re in bed so that you use your bed for sleep and sex only!
Still Not Sleepy?
If you’ve implemented all of these tips and you’re still not sleepy, you might be experiencing some pressure to fall asleep. You might be in bed telling yourself “come on, just sleep! I have a meeting at 6am, I can’t have another sleepless night!”. These anxious thoughts are normal, but should not be happening in your bed. If you notice yourself thinking while you’re in bed, you’re not sleepy enough! Get out of bed, move to a different part of your space, and take time to write, read, or reflect. You might want to implement mindfulness practices, such as listening to a guided meditation, or practicing deep breathing. Whatever it is that you choose to do, be compassionate with yourself. You will eventually feel sleepy, so hold onto that truth.
About the Author
Rafi Fadda is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor (ASW) at Well Clinic in San Francisco. In her words:
“You deserve to feel acknowledged, validated, and affirmed.” As a bicultural therapist, I aim to work with individuals who are seeking the opportunity to re-examine their storyline and get creative in unpacking their identity.