The recent coronavirus outbreak has been the biggest pandemic since the ones involving HIV/AIDS (2005-2012) and the Spanish Flu 1918). It’s become a catalyst for quarantines/lockdowns, vaccine research, and COVID-19 anxiety. The world’s nations have reported over 63 million COVID-19 cases as of November 2020.
This situation has produced wholesale changes to people’s day-to-day lives that affect work, school, and even play. Meanwhile, sleep deprivation has often become a second thought. Getting a full night’s sleep is more important than ever to deal with stay-at-home orders, virtual work, and home-schooling. Quality slumber can provide physical, mental, and emotional benefits to deal with the current global crisis.
How the COVID-19 Pandemic Can Affect Sleep
Most sleep experts suggest that teens and adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Ideally, this should include cycling through the five sleep stages multiple times during the night, including rapid-eye-movement (REM) or “deep sleep.” This is when most dreaming happens.
Sleeping during a Pandemic
Studies show that lack of sleep can cause increased stress and anxiety and negatively affect one’s mood.
Here’s the thing. It’s quite normal for people to be concerned about the health of themselves and their loved ones during a pandemic. Tossing and turning all night instead of getting quality sleep is a different story.
There are various factors that might cause stress and sleepless nights during worldwide pandemics like COVID-19, including:
- Social distancing
- Personal health
- Working from home
- Job layoffs/furloughs
- School closures
There’s no question that these disruptive situations can cause stress and worry among people, which can result in sleep affecting productivity.
Disruption and Distress
The current coronavirus crisis affects different people in different ways, which can include getting less than a full 7 or 8 hours of shut-eye at night. This is based on factors like how much your daily life is disrupted and how well you’re handling it.
Here are some of the major changes quarantines and lockdowns might have on your daily life:
- New/No schedules can be difficult to deal with
- Over-sleeping can affect your sleep schedule and cause mood changes
- Keeping track of the time/day can be difficult without “time anchors”
- Lower light levels at home can disrupt sleep/wake cycles
These changes to your daily schedule can be tough to adjust to, but you can be successful by following some basic tips:
Tip #1: Take a Break from (or Ditch) Daily News
It’s highly recommended that you at least stop reading, listening to, or watching news reports after 7 PM or so. Negative news about the ongoing global crisis can cause stress, anxiety, and even depression. That can make it tougher to doze off at night.
Consuming negative daily news can cause many negative effects on a person’s mind and mood. A better option is news outlets that focus on positive news. It can make it easier to deal with daily struggles during the coronavirus pandemic.
Doctor Talks about Benefits of Positive Thinking (video)
Tip #2 Manage Stress and Anxiety Effectively
The virus pandemic is increasing stress and anxiety levels for the general public. A recent study showed the average stress level among U.S. adults is 5.4, which is significantly higher than in 2019, according to The American Psychological Association.
There are several causes of the stress spike, including uncertainty the crisis has caused. During the past year or so people have become more worried about issues like work/finance, family health, and kids’ education.
Sleeping Pills: Bad Medicine?
Sleep aids and sleeping pills might help you get some sleep when your mind starts racing about issues like how soon a COVID-19 vaccine will be approved.
The big problem is such “solutions” don’t deal with the real cause of your sleep problems, and could actually trigger worse insomnia. That can lead to more anxiety about falling asleep.
The good news is there are more effective ways to handle stress and anxiety during pandemics, including:
Some options include meditation, yoga, or simply resting during the day or before bedtime. Adding these techniques to your bedtime routine can help to prepare your body and mind for sleep, and prevent tossing and turning all night.
If you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about pandemic-related issues, try to delay such thoughts until the next day. In fact, the opposite of worrying is taking action—after a good night’s sleep.
Daytime Physical Activity
This can include options like gym workouts, indoor/outdoor sports, and yard work. Studies show that regular physical activity can help to get better sleep quality at night, including ‘deep sleep.”
Tip #3: Stay Connected to Friends, Family, and Followers
It can be easy to experience feelings of loneliness and isolation when you’re stuck at home because of quarantines, lockdowns, and furloughs. Fortunately, it’s easier to stay connected to friends and family in the Digital Age through options like cellphones, social media, and video chats.
You can also share your pandemic stories through social media outlets like a Facebook fan page or YouTube channel. This is another way to connect with followers by creating good vibes and interacting with netizens through text, photos, and videos in blog posts, for example.
How to Stay Connected during the Pandemic (video)
Tip #4: Create a Sleep Schedule and Routine
Sleeping at approximately the same time every day is important to keep your “internal clock” functioning as smoothly as a Swiss watch. It’s especially important to have normal sleeping times and routines during situations like pandemics.
Sleep Times during Tough Times
Health experts explain the importance of maintaining regular sleep times. During times like global epidemics, it’s especially critical to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythms. One way to do that is to have a set schedule for doing other activities like:
Wake-up Time: Go to sleep early enough so you can wake up naturally without an alarm clock
Wind-down Time: Start your bedtime rituals an hour or so before bedtime to start relaxing
Bedtime: Try to switch off the lights and sleep around the same time every night if possible
You can even take steps during the day, so your circadian rhythms don’t miss a beat, including:
Tip #5: Take Basic Steps to Improve Sleep Quality
Here are some ideas:
- Do light exercise before bedtime
- Use a regular bedtime/wake-up schedule
- Review your daily and pre-bedtime diet
- Create a dark and quiet sleep environment
- Make your bedroom a sleep-only space
- Use relaxation techniques before bedtime
- Minimize number/length of daytime naps
- Use sleep aids like eye masks and ear plugs
- Try out Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Switch off LED screens at least one hour before bedtime
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of our daily lives. This includes factors like sleep quality and effects of sleep on productivity. Fortunately, you can take steps in the new normal to beat insomnia and fight the coronavirus.