These are unprecedented times, the real and tangible threats of COVID-19 is hovering around us 24/7. All are in a constant fight and flight mode with heightened levels of stress and anxiety. Uncertainty is causing a pervasive disruption to our daily lives. Almost all of us are first-timers to know what exactly is under lock-down, self-isolation, home curfew, practicing social distancing, working from home (or not working at all!), means. A few of us have been able to control your behaviors and are coping fairly well with the threats of COVID 19 but most are experiencing a decline in mental and sleep health. The “new normal” has particularly impacted our sleep pattern for better or worst. Data from Evidation Health suggests that due to the coronavirus work-from-home and quarantine procedures, Americans are doing an estimated 40% less physical activity than normal, but they are also spending almost 20% more time asleep.
At Sleep Moksha, here are the two sleep scenarios that have come up for us as Sleep health care providers and educators, as well as from friends and family members, during the pandemic.
The first category is of those who are comfortable working from home as it provides freedom and flexibility. A few have reported daytime hyper-somnolence/excessive daytime sleepiness and how remote working gives them an opportunity to nap when convenient and/or sleep during non-traditional scheduled hours. No commute to work is like an icing on the cake. It brings them an opportunity to start days later and free time in hand to be spent with the family, hobby, watching their favorite show or doing absolutely nothing! Interestingly, some people have also reported higher creativity and productivity!
All this sounds great as long as you don’t have trouble falling or staying asleep at night. It’s a great time to fall in love with sleep and repay your sleep debt.
This whole new scenario also makes me think if this trend of working from home is going to bring a large shift towards a better quality of life (good sleep, healthy body and happy mind) driven by technology?
The second sleep scenario consists of those who while working from home are experiencing tremendous stress and anxiety from changes in routine and are losing sleep, worrying about elements out of their control. In today’s situation, when the whole world is talking about immunity boosters, sleeplessness is a big cause of concern as disrupted sleep patterns can be harmful to self-healing. Sleep and anxiety feed on each other. And although it may be hard to fall asleep amidst all the chaos that the world is witnessing right now but it could be exactly what you need to help yourself with the anxiety and stress staring at you.
Sleep is so powerful that research shows long-term sleep loss can make vaccines less effective. So, it is significant for those who fall into this second category to know that sleep is not only important physically, it is vital to our emotional, mental, and professional health as well and that we must make sleep – and good sleep – a priority.
During sleep an extraordinary thing happens; One of the stress-related chemicals in the brain, noradrenaline, is switched off. It’s the only time, day or night, this happens. It allows us to remain calm while our brains reprocess all the information (including corona news!) from the day, helping us come to terms, particularly with emotional events. Good and adequate sleep enables us to cope with the constant changes or the ‘new normal’. In the last half of the night, if you are woken unexpectedly, your brain may not have dealt with all your emotions – which could leave you feeling highly stressed, anxious and groggy the next morning. Our ability to manage daily mental stresses as well as fight of diseases depends, in many ways, on our good night’s sleep.
My advice to you during the pandemic…In a situation like a world is facing today, any means of improving health are extremely necessary. What it means is that if you’re saving a few hours a day by not commuting to work, and judiciously use these hours for extra sleep, you’re doing yourself a favor.
How to Get a Good night’s sleep without medication?
Relearn how to fall asleep
A night of good quality sleep is determined by three things-
Preparation (bedroom), Environment (surroundings including light and sound) and Timings (sleeping when you need to).
Make sure your bedroom is sleep conducive and Temperature matching your comfort
Your bed deserves the best. Don’t hesitate in investing in a good mattress, pillows and sheets. Your bed is important for your sleep; help it make your night more restful and good rather than making you, groggy the next morning.
Keep a consistent bedtime and wake uptime
Hit the pillow at a regular time and try to stick to your wake up time on weekends and weekdays. Let your alarm clock (and not mobile phone alarm!) help you with this tip.
Avoid napping late afternoon.
If you can’t do without it, take a brief power nap for not more then 15-20 minutes.
Ditch Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and big meals before bedtime.
Avoid eating big meals at night and try to finish dinner at least two hours before you prepare for sleep. Say no to coffee and smoking before bedtime. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, cola, chocolates) shortens the duration of your deep sleep whereas nicotine keeps you stimulated, preventing sleep onset. Also, you are advised against alcohol before bed because it keeps you out of delta (deep) sleep, and if you are a diuretic, alcohol forces you to use the bathroom and breaks your natural sleep cycle. It also adds to nightmares and sweats.
Exercise regularly but not before your bedtime.
Morning and afternoon exercises are known to have a positive effect on nocturnal sleep as it helps one fall asleep faster with less trouble. Exercise also promotes a good mood and deep sleep.
Cut down your screen time before bedtime.
Before you say good night to your partner, say it to your gadgets. Turn off your electronic gadgets at least an hour before bedtime. Doing this will not only help in making your brain less stimulated and alert but also lead to deep sleep and refreshing mornings.
With this, you are now at a point where you know how to fine-tune your existing sleep habits and instead of tossing and turning in bed, get a truly restful sleep.