If you are experiencing insomnia or trouble sleeping due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, know that it’s a normal response to stress. We are under a lot of pressure, we may worry about our health and our loved ones, our daily lives have probably changed a lot, we worry about the economy and so on.
If you have problems with falling asleep or staying asleep in these uncertain times, there are some steps you can take to help you sleep better.
One of the first steps to take when dealing with insomnia is maintaining a sleep schedule. Your body’s circadian rhythm needs consistency. By going to bed at the same time, your body will release a natural sleep hormone called melatonin, and also you’ll get tired at the same time every night.
And just like you set an alarm to wake you up in the morning, you can set an alarm to remind you that it is time to go to sleep in the evening.
Intake of Caffeine and Alcohol
You need to be extra careful with the consumption of coffee when you have problems with insomnia. Caffeine stays in your body for more than 6 hours, so avoid drinking coffee in the afternoon or evening hours.
A lot of people might find themselves drinking alcohol during the weekdays due to self-isolation. Now, you might think that alcohol helps you fall asleep, and you’re probably right. However, the trouble with alcohol is that it makes it difficult to stay asleep. In fact, 27 studies showed that alcohol reduces REM sleep. And REM sleep is the deep, restorative stage of sleep.
So, our tip is to limit alcohol intake to two drinks per day.
With all the gyms closed, it would be no wonder if you have difficulties to exercise at home. Keep in mind that exercise is beneficial to your overall physical and mental state, and for quality sleep, too. The most important thing is not to exercise too close to bedtime because it might keep you awake.
Confront Your Feelings
These are stressful times for all of us. If you don’t take the time to process your feelings and worries during the day, they might come during the night in the form of bad dreams or insomnia.
It’s a good idea to write a journal or share your feelings with your loved ones.
Since we are spending most of our time home, we tend to spend more time in front of computers, TVs, and phones. Now, this is a good thing when it comes to connecting with other people while in self-isolation. But, if you spend too much time on social media or news sites, it can increase your stress and anxiety, particularly in challenging times like these. Also, blue lights from screens disrupt melatonin production, which is a hormone that helps us relax and sleep. And the lower level of melatonin together with anxiety-inducing content can cause or contribute to insomnia.
This is why we recommend to turn off your screens for 30-60 minutes before bedtime.
Children do well when they follow a bedtime routine like taking a shower, putting on pajamas, brushing their teeth, reading bedtime stories, and a goodnight hug. And adults are not an exception. Adults could use a bedtime routine just as much as children do. A bedtime routine is a way to prepare your body and mind that it’s time to sleep and relax. It should include your nighttime hygiene routine, but also something relaxing like reading or listening to music. It’s best to have a routine simple and consistent.
Our tips might be overwhelming for you to try them all at once. If that is the case, try incorporating one by one, choose one thing to work on this week, then another thing next week. Have self-compassion because the future feels extra scary and unknown right now.