Sleep tips during the COVID-19 pandemic, Part II
Continued from Part I.
Our instructions for sleeping well during the emergency with COVID-19
Despite the difficult challenges, there are several steps that can promote better sleep during a coronavirus pandemic.
If these efforts do not have an immediate effect, do not give up. It may take time to stabilize your sleep, and you may find that you need to adapt these suggestions to best suit your particular situation.
Create a schedule and routine
Establishing a routine can facilitate the feeling of normalcy even in unusual moments. It is easier for your mind and body to adjust to a constant sleep schedule, which is why health experts have long recommended that you avoid major changes in your daily routine.
Specific aspects of your daily schedule should include:
• Wake-up time: Set your alarm, don't snooze and have a set time to start each day.
• Time to relax: This is an important time to relax and get ready for bed. It can include things like light reading, stretching and meditation, along with preparation before bed, such as wearing pajamas and brushing your teeth. Given the stress of the coronavirus pandemic, it's wise to take extra time each night to relax.
• Bedtime: Choose a constant time to turn off the lights and try to fall asleep.
In addition to the time spent sleeping and preparing before bed, it may be helpful to include regular procedures to provide time signals throughout the day, including:
- Shower and dress, even if you do not leave your home.
- Eating at the same time every day.
- Blocking specific time periods for work and exercises.
Use your bed only for sleep
Sleep experts emphasize the importance of creating an association in your mind between bed and sleep. For this reason, they recommend that sleep and sex be the only activities that take place in bed.
This means that work at home should not happen from the bed. This also means avoiding putting a laptop in bed to watch a movie or TV series.
On any night, if you find it difficult to fall asleep, do not spend more than 20 minutes tossing and turning. Instead, get out of bed and do something relaxing in very low light, then go back to bed and try to fall asleep again.
Frequent change of sheets, adjustment of pillows and preparation of the bed can keep it fresh, creating a comfortable and inviting atmosphere that puts you to sleep.
Expose yourself to light
Exposure to light plays a crucial role in helping our body regulate sleep in a healthy way. As you deal with interruptions in your daily life, you may need to take steps so that light signals have a positive effect on your circadian rhythm.
If you can, spend some time outside in natural light. Even if the sun does not shine brightly, natural light still has positive effects on the circadian rhythm. Many people think that the weather outdoors is most useful in the morning and as an added bonus you breathe fresh air.
As much as possible, open windows and blinds to let light into your home during the day.
Keep in mind the time in front of the screen. It has been found that blue light produced by electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and computers, affects the body's natural sleep-stimulating processes. As much as possible, avoid using these devices for an hour before bedtime. You can also use device settings or special applications that reduce or filter out blue light.
Be careful with naps
If you are at home all day, you may be tempted to get more sleep. While a short nap in the early afternoon may be helpful for some people, it is best to avoid long naps or those later in the day that can interfere with a good night's sleep.
It is easy to ignore exercise with everything that happens in the world, but regular daily activity has many important benefits, including sleep.
If you can go for a walk while keeping a safe distance from other people, this is a great option. If not, there are a wealth of resources online for all types and levels of exercise. Many gyms, yoga and dance studios have free live broadcasts during this period of social distancing.
Practice kindness and encourage the connection with yourself
It may not seem critical to your sleep, but kindness and a relationship with yourself can reduce stress and its harmful effects on mood and sleep.
Despite all the bad news you may encounter, try to find some positive stories, such as how people support each other during a pandemic. You can use technology to connect with friends and family, to maintain social connections, despite the need for social distance.
Use relaxation techniques
Finding ways to relax can be a powerful tool to improve your sleep. Deep breathing, stretching, yoga, mindfulness meditation, soothing music and quiet reading are just a few examples of relaxation techniques you can incorporate into your rituals. If you're not sure where to start, check out smartphone apps like Headspace and Calm, which have programs designed for people with no meditation experience.
Another relaxation strategy during this pandemic is to avoid being overwhelmed by news related to the coronavirus. For example, you can try techniques, including:
• Bookmarking one or two trusted news sites and visiting them only for a limited, pre-determined period of time each day.
• Reducing the total time, you spend digging in social media. If you need help with this effort, a number of apps can monitor and even block your time on websites or social media apps every day.
• Schedule phone or video calls with friends and family and arrange in advance to focus on topics other than the coronavirus.
Watch what you eat and drink
Following a healthy diet can promote good sleep. In particular, be careful with alcohol and caffeine, especially later in the day, as both can disrupt the quantity and quality of your sleep.
Contact your doctor if necessary
If you have severe or worsening sleep or other health problems, it is advisable to contact your doctor. Many physicians are increasing availability by email or online to allow patients to discuss their problems without having to physically visit the office.