Avoid coronavirus insomnia and sleep better during the pandemic.
You would think all this time spent at home would be the perfect opportunity to catch up on lost sleep. But the exact opposite is what's going on. The uncertainty and fear that the coronavirus has caused are resulting in disrupted sleep for individuals of all ages. While disrupting sleep may not seem like a big deal, the reality is sleep plays a vital role in helping you keep your mental and physical health during a time of crisis. Here's how the coronavirus disrupts your sleep pattern and what you can do to correct it.
Why Are People Losing Sleep?
With the majority of Americans switching to work-from-home schedules and millions more students jumping online for digital learning, it should come as no surprise that many people have ditched their normal routine and schedule that existed pre-corona.
More people are staying up later because the need to drive to work or school is no longer there. Additionally, more people are going to bed with a screen in their face that keeps them up longer than they intended. The result is that people are getting up later or sleeping in for longer periods of time, and in turn, disrupting their normal sleep pattern.
Why Does Your Sleep Pattern Matter?
Your circadian rhythm or your body's natural sleep-wake cycle is pretty well-established when you have a normal routine. Disruptions in your day like this pandemic can easily throw off your routine. In fact, I’m betting a good bit of you probably don't even know the day of the week today. While it's true many people don't have anywhere to be, this shouldn't be a reason to throw off your normal route because it will disrupt your natural sleep cycle.
Impacts on Your Physical Health
Having a proper sleep cycle is imperative for giving your body and brain a break from all that it has endured throughout the day. Quite literally, when you sleep, your body’s cells undergo a repair process from all the energy that has been exerted all day long. Muscles, organs, and other cells heal up and strengthen immune-boosting chemicals that circulate in your blood.
Impacts on Your Mental Health
Just like your body repairs itself when you're catching some zzzz's, so does your brain. Everything your brain has encountered through the day needs to be processed, and sleeping is when that processing happens.
When your body enters the deep REM sleep, your brain’s ability to adapt and offer input, otherwise known as plasticity, gets a chance to be exercised. This results in you waking up feeling refreshed and renewed, allowing you to make well-informed and thoughtful decisions throughout your day. In other words, your reasoning about a decision is strengthened when you “sleep on it.” During a crisis like this pandemic, the traumatic and uncertain feelings that come with it can be digested by your brain while you are sleeping, thus lowering your levels of uncertainty and anxiety.
How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule
In order to allow your brain to repair and digest what it has encountered throughout the day, you need to fix your sleeping schedule. Consider implementing these tips to get back on track.
1. Create a Schedule
Have some sort of schedule in place so that you are going to bed at a reasonable and consistent time every single night. This will help correct your circadian rhythm. You don’t have to have a strict schedule, but you want to keep your routine as close to pre-corona as possible.
2. Stay Away From Electronic Devices Before Bed
The bright lights on any electronic device keep your brain alert and engaged when it should be winding down and getting ready for bed. Think of your brain as a computer that needs to be shut down properly. When you keep it operating, then pull the plug on its ability to stay alert (staying up too late), you do not allow your brain to go through the proper stages of sleep that will send you into the deep REM sleep that is responsible for dreaming and repairing.
If you keep yourself awake until you no longer can keep your eyes open, you are essentially working your brain until it can no longer perform. The best way to avoid this is by engaging in calming activities like reading a book or journaling.
3. Try to Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol before bed can be disruptive to your sleep pattern because it works as a sedative. In his book, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, Matthew Walker discusses the different ways alcohol disrupts your sleep. If you do want to have a nightcap at the end of your day, it is best to reserve it for the early evening hours.
While you may have little control over what's going on in the world right now, your sleep schedule is something you can have complete control over. Let us know if coronavirus disrupts your sleep pattern and whether or not you have been able to get back on track.