The burden of the coronavirus is causing many Americans to toss and turn at night, with many complaining they can’t sleep during the lockdown. Indeed, one study found Americans were sleeping 20 percent more, while others are suffering from insomnia. Google searches for “insomnia” also hit an all-time high in April. There are even people suffering from pandemic dreams, causing interruption to their sleep cycle.
“We normally use REM sleep and dreams to handle intense emotions, particularly negative emotions,” Patrick McNamara, an associate professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine who is an expert in dreams, told National Geographic. “Obviously, this pandemic is producing a lot of stress and anxiety.”
But there is hope.
For those who can’t sleep during the lockdown, there are small changes you can make during the day and before your bedtime routine to help you during this pandemic.
Here are a few ways to improve your sleep hygiene:
Schedule your day to prepare for sleep.
It is important to take steps to ensure you get a good night’s sleep during the day. Consider getting some natural sunlight, whether you sit next to your window, step outside onto the balcony or hang out in your yard. Light can help balance out your day-night cycle, or circadian rhythm, ensuring you get a better night’s sleep. Exercise is another way to help with sleep, as it allows you to fall into a deeper slumber and calm the mind. Also, keep an eye on your caffeine intake, as it can cause insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping, stop drinking your cup of joe midday.
Create a bedroom haven.
For those who can’t sleep during lockdown, it is important that your bedroom is only used for sleep. Otherwise you will associate it with other activities, like work. To create a sleep-optimized setting, keep your room cool and comfortable. It is recommended to keep your room between 60 and 69 degrees. Also, declutter your bedroom, as a mess can cause you to feel anxious. And keep your room dark. If needed, invest in some blackout curtains or an eye mask.
Be cognizant of your media intake.
The news is flooded with coronavirus stories, with many of them causing stress – a spike in deaths, a new outbreak, lack of PPE equipment, the list goes on. This can result in a lot of anxious thoughts running through your head during bedtime. Consider curbing your media intake before bedtime, or having a news cut-off time, like 7 pm. You may also want to focus your mind on other content, like books or uplifting news articles.
Determine what type of sleeper you are.
Do you sleep on your back, stomach, side or a combo? Knowing your sleep positions may help. For instance, if you have back pain and are a side sleeper, putting a pillow between your legs may ease the aches. Or if you are a back sleeper, try putting a pillow under your knees.
Dealing with coronavirus insomnia.
If you can’t sleep during lockdown, you may have pent up anxiety from the coronavirus pandemic. To deal with those nightly worries, consider journaling your thoughts – get all your concerns down on a paper to put your mind at ease. One study shows that a hot bath or shower one to two hours before bedtime can also help. The reason being is that our body temperature tends to be lower during sleep. By taking a hot shower or bath, we bring heat to the surface of our body, releasing it in our environment. The result is a lower body temperature.
These are trying times, causing a lot of stress and concern for many. But by getting a good night’s sleep, you can help ease your mind, be more productive throughout the day and more relaxed.