The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on how people are sleeping, according to a recent study published in the journal, Current Biology. Researchers found people are sleeping longer at night, but overall sleep quality has decreased.
With the current recommendations to stay home as much as possible, many people are finding themselves without the structure to anchor a normal day and night routine.
"The lack of routine coupled with increased stress is a perfect storm for the development of sleep problems," said Dr. Kevin Walker, medical director of Intermountain Healthcare’s Sleep Disorders Center.
Intermountain sleep experts have 11 recommendations to help you have a better night’s sleep:
Create and maintain routines
This includes keeping a set time to go to bed and the same time to get up. As well as keeping as much of your regular routine times set as well such as mealtimes and exercise times.
Make it a plan to get outside each day
The idea is to get outside in the sun at least 30 minutes and preferably before noon. Bright light exposure helps our body maintain a regular daily rhythm.
Keep your bed a bed
It’s tempting, but avoid answering emails, working on your laptop, or watching movies in bed. Keep the strong association between bed and sleep.
Go to bed when sleepy but don’t force it
It’s important to head to the bed when you’re feeling exhausted instead of falling asleep on the couch. But on the same token, if you are not tired, don’t make yourself go to sleep. Instead, try the next step about relaxing calming activities to wind down.
Calming and soothing bedtime routines are important for kids and adults
Reserve the hour before the set bedtime for positive and relaxing activities. Read a positive, calm book, take a shower or bath, review your grateful list or talk to your friends and loved ones. All of these are great options to help ready the body and mind for rest.
Dim the lights and avoids screens
That hour or two before bed should be a time to dim the lights. Bright lights and screens send confusing signals to the brain that it is daytime, making it more difficult to fall asleep afterward.
Try dimming overhead lights at night and enable night mode on electronic devices. This helps filter blue light from the screens. Blue light blocking glasses also help in the evening when using screens.
If you worry at night, make a list for the next day
If you have trouble trying to get your brain to shut off or tune out the worries, then set some time an hour or two before bed to make a list of those worries. But don’t try to tackle them – at least not until the next day. Set time tomorrow to address those worries. Set a pad of paper next to the bed so you can write them down if you find you can’t forget them.
Relaxation exercises, such as meditation or slow easy breathing
There are several popular apps that use voices and music to guide the person on how to breathe calmly and relax.
Develop healthy sleep habits
Keep your room comfortable, cool and dark. Avoid eating within two hours of bedtime and using alcohol in the evening. Alcohol has been known to help people fall asleep faster, but it can lead to poor quality of sleep as people tend to wake up more often. Also, avoid caffeine afternoon.
Short naps can help you feel refreshed
Yes, naps can help give you a daytime boost. But keep them to 15-20 minutes, as longer naps or ones in the later part f the day can interfere with your sleep that night. But, if you are ill, napping and extra sleep may help in your recovery and is beneficial.
Take sleep medications only as prescribed
Over-the-counter sleep medication is not meant for frequent or long-term use. If you have a prescription, always adhere to the doctor’s recommendations.
If you try these steps and cannot find sleep relief, it’s time to speak to your doctor or mental health provider about sleep issues. For more information, visit intermountainhealthcare.org