If you missed Nurse Joan’s ‘Stay In, Stay Safe’ session about Covid-19 and sleep, you can watch it again here. We’ve also summarised all of the main points that he covered in the session below:
Coronavirus has taken us into a world of uncharted waters. Countless lockdowns, economies have ground to a halt, and have unleashed fear amongst us. With such unprecedented changes coming so quickly, it’s understandable that the importance of sleep is flying under the radar. But as we adjust to stay-at-home orders and try to remain healthy in a time of COVID-19, focusing on sleeping well offers tremendous benefits.
Sleep is critical to physical health and effective functioning of the immune system. It’s also a key promoter of emotional wellness and mental health, helping to beat back stress, depression, and anxiety.
Whether you’ve had sleeping problems before COVID-19 or if they’ve only come on recently, there are concrete steps that you can take to improve your sleep during this global pandemic.
Why is Sleep Important During a Pandemic?
Sleep is a critical biological process, and as we juggle the mental, physical, and emotional demands of the pandemic, it’s arguably more important than ever. For instance:
Nurse Joan’s 9 tips for Sleeping Well During the COVID-19 Outbreak
In spite of the daunting challenges, there are a handful of steps that can promote better sleep during the coronavirus pandemic.
Establishing a routine can facilitate a sense of normalcy even in abnormal times. It’s easier for your mind and body to acclimate to a consistent sleep schedule, which is why health experts have long recommended avoiding major variation in your daily sleep times.
Sleep-specific aspects of your daily schedule should include:
In addition to time spent sleeping and getting ready for bed, it can be helpful to incorporate steady routines to provide time cues throughout the day, including:
Sleep experts emphasise the importance of creating an association in your mind between your bed and sleep.
This means that working-from-home shouldn’t be working-from-bed. It also means avoiding bringing a laptop into bed to watch a movie or series.
On any given night, if you find that you’re having a hard time sleeping, don’t spend more than 20 minutes tossing and turning. Instead, get out of bed and do something relaxing in very low light, and then head back to bed to try to fall asleep.
Frequently changing your sheets, fluffing your pillows, and making your bed can keep your bed feeling fresh, creating a comfortable and inviting setting to doze off.
Exposure to light plays a crucial role in helping our bodies regulate sleep in a healthy way. As you deal with disruptions to daily life, you may need to take steps so that light-based cues have a positive effect on your circadian rhythm.
If you’re home all day, you may be tempted to take more naps. Rather than approaching naps haphazardly, consider a more intentional and consistent napping schedule.
In addition to reducing sleepiness, napping can improve learning, help with memory formation, and assist with our emotional regulation. It’s important to note that naps should be limited to just 10-20 minutes, however, as longer naps can leave one feeling groggy, while shorter naps simply aren’t long enough to reap the benefits.
It’s easy to overlook exercise with everything happening in the world, but regular daily activity has numerous important benefits, including for sleep. Excessive activity right before bedtime can adversely affect sleep.
If you can go for a walk while maintaining a safe distance from other people, that’s a great option. If not, there is a wealth of resources online for all types and levels of exercise. Many gyms and yoga and dance studios live-stream free classes during this period of social distancing.
It might not seem critical to your sleep, but kindness and connection can reduce stress and its harmful effects on mood and sleep.
While the bad news can feel at once overwhelming and all-consuming, try to find some positive stories, such as how people are supporting one another through the pandemic. You can use technology to stay in touch with friends and family to maintain social connections despite the need for social distancing.
Finding ways to relax can be a potent tool to improve your sleep. Deep breathing, stretching, yoga, mindfulness meditation, calming music, and quiet reading are just a few examples of relaxation techniques that you can build into your routines.
If you’re not sure where to get started, explore smartphone apps like Headspace and Calm that have programs designed for people new to meditation.
Another relaxation strategy during this pandemic is to avoid becoming overwhelmed by coronavirus-related news. For example, you can try techniques including:
Keeping a healthy diet can promote good sleep. During times of heightened stress and uncertainty, it can be easy to reach for fatty or sugary foods, or for happy hour to start bleeding into earlier parts of the day.
If you have severe or worsening sleep or other health problems, it is advisable to be in touch with your doctor. Many doctors are increasing availability via telemedicine to allow patients to discuss concerns without having to physically visit their office.