Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all had more stress with plenty of reasons to lose sleep. Sleep experts are labeling this sleep loss Coronasomnia and it is very real and widespread. The NIH reports “very high rates of clinically significant insomnia” along with more stress, depression and anxiety. We also have more difficulty sleeping when our normal routines are drastically changed. People need stimulation and variety in our activities; the lack of both can contribute to poor sleep. In addition, more people are working and sleeping at odd hours which is effecting our circadian rhythms. This affects your eating, digestion, immune response and sleep.
This insomnia is a vicious cycle. Many things we do to fight the insomnia will actually increase our sleep problems, such as having a nap or a glass of wine. Lack of sleep can lead to many health problems, such as weight gain, high blood pressure, depression, and these health issues put you at greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and poor COVID outcomes should someone test positive.
There are many ways you can address sleep challenges. Remember that you are not alone; we are all suffering from COVID fatigue. Here are some tips to get your sleep back on track.
- Occasional sleep problems are normal; try not to worry.
- Take steps to fight stress such as getting regular exercise, meditation, and breathing techniques.
- Keep a normal daily routine; wake up at the same time and go to bed at the same time
- Give yourself breaks throughout the day- go for a walk, take a real lunch break, get outside.
- Create and keep a bedtime routine – shower, pj’s, read turn down lights 30 minutes before bed.
- Avoid screens an hour before bed and in the bedroom. Blue light signals our bodies to stay awake and not release melatonin, so cut our texting and social media before bed.
- Don’t use your bedroom as your office; it should be your place of rest only.
- Get your exercise during the day, at least 3 hours or more before you go to sleep.
- Use caution with naps. A short power nap early in the day may be ok, but too long or too late and it may throw your sleep cycle off.
- Get some sunlight each day to help circadian rhythms stay in a natural 24 hour pattern and produce adequate melatonin at night.
- Don’t eat too late. Eat at least 3-4 hours before going to sleep so that you have time to digest.
- Get out of bed! If you wake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep, get out of bed and do something in dim light.
- Go easy on caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine after early afternoon may keep you awake at night. Alcohol may help you fall asleep but you may not sleep well or stay asleep.
- Take care with sleep medications. They can lead to dependence, fitful sleep or leave you drowsy in the morning.
If nothing is working and you have tried to add the suggestion above, seek help. There are options for treatment beside medications. Contact your physician to see what treatments or recommendations they can provide you.