COVID-19 has erupted into our world and brought with it a whole host of fears, anxieties, and stressors. Those anxieties, fears, and stressors make it much harder, or in some cases, nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep, or any sleep at all. Yet sleep is something we all need. Getting a good night’s sleep can improve your physical and emotional health, which is essential to your safety and wellbeing during a global pandemic. The CDC has even cited sleep issues as one of the possible long-term side effects of COVID-19 (CDC, 2020). So, what are some steps we can take to improve the quality and quantity of our sleep?
Well, one thing we can do is to set a sleep schedule. For most of us, the pandemic has drastically changed our daily routine due to work and school now also, often, occurring at home. When all of our worlds combined, some of us may have stopped following our pre-COVID routines. However, those routines, specifically going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday help improve our sleep (Bei, Rajaratnam, Drummond, & Manber, 2020; Sleep Foundation, 2020). Our sleep routine should include time to unwind and get ready for bed. Winding down should avoid high-energy activities like exercise, or things like screen time, which can make it harder for us to fall asleep. (Bei, Rajaratnam, Drummond, & Manber, 2020; Sleep Foundation, 2020; Jin, Hanley, & Beaulieu, 2013, p. 162)
Another thing we can do to improve our sleep is to reserve our beds for sleep (Bei, Rajaratnam, Drummond, & Manber, 2020; (Sleep Foundation, 2020). Even though our home has now become an office, home, daycare, school, social center, etc. it is really important that we set up boundaries and try to avoid doing things like work, school, hobbies, eating or watching shows on our devices in bed. You want to associate your bed with sleep, not with other activities that may be some of the stressors that are keeping you up at night.
Exercise is an additional way to improve your sleep (Bei, Rajaratnam, Drummond, & Manber, 2020; Sleep Foundation, 2020). It does not have to be high-intensity exercise, even going for a walk could be helpful. Again, just make sure you are not exercising right before you go to bed (Jin, Hanley, & Beaulieu, 2013, p. 162). Staying active during the day may not only help you sleep but may also help you avoid napping throughout the day. If you do need a nap, try to keep them short as longer naps may not only leave you groggy but also disrupt your sleep for the coming night (Bei, Rajaratnam, Drummond, & Manber, 2020).
Now let’s say that you are trying these recommendations and you are still waking up and staring at your ceiling in the middle of the night, what should you do? As counter-intuitive as this may seem, you should get up. Once up, do a quiet, relaxing, and not overly reinforcing activity until you feel sleepy and then return to bed (Bei, Rajaratnam, Drummond, & Manber, 2020). Also, if you have continued sleep issues, your sleep habits are interfering with your daily life, or your sleep issues are distressing you then you should reach out to a physician for help (Bei, Rajaratnam, Drummond, & Manber, 2020).
Sleep is essential to our well-being and can help us stay healthy, which is more important than ever, during the pandemic. If you want to improve your sleep try to set a sleep schedule, set up a bedtime routine, reserve your bed for sleep, exercise, stay active, and avoid napping, especially long naps, where possible.
Bei, B., Rajaratnam, S., Drummond, S., & Manber, R. (2020, November 27). Sleeping tips when staying indoors during isolation period. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://github.com/beisci/SleepInfo/blob/master/sleep_in_isolation.md#sleeping-tips-when-staying-indoors-during-isolation-period
CDC. (2020, November 13). Long-Term Effects of COVID-19. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html
Jin, C. S., Hanley, G. P., & Beaulieu, L. (2013). AN INDIVIDUALIZED AND COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO TREATING SLEEP PROBLEMS IN YOUNG CHILDREN. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46(1), 161–180. https://doi.org/10.1002/jaba.16
Sleep Foundation. (2020, December 17). Sleep Guidelines During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-guidelines-covid-19-isolation
KEY WORDS: COVID-19 SLEEP SCHEDULE ROUTINE ACTIVE