The world has been trudging through the coronavirus pandemic for over two years now. Having rearranged the way we live our lives to a more cautious norm; we’ve all been faced with a new set of challenges that we may not have been prepared for. People all over the world have felt the effect of the pandemic on every part of our lives, from higher general anxiety levels and lower levels of activity to more screen time and less motivation. One specific area that seem to be highly effected, is our sleep. During the course of the pandemic, people everywhere have reported sleeplessness, a lower quality of sleep, strange dreams, insomnia and trouble falling asleep. Now 2 years in, we can explore how society has been affected and some different ways that we can help ease these sleep complications.
Over the last two years, our lives have become more compact. Around 98% of people surveyed, have reported at least some disturbance to their regular sleep schedule while in lockdown. From going out and meeting friends to the simple act of commuting to the office, covid has shaken up and changed our lives, taking a toll on us all. The general stress of COVID-19 has thrown people’s daily rhythms out of balance, especially the nightly sleep schedule. Lack of sleep can cause a ripple effect in our daily lives, causing concentration and mood issues and making it harder to complete simple daily tasks. Sleep has important ramifications in everything we do. Sleep problems have been reported across all countries and all age groups and demographics. A large portion of people are either not getting enough sleep, getting quality sleep, or have their natural circadian rhythms thrown off. Circadian rhythms have a direct correlation to our physical and mental health. Unfortunately, left unchecked these sleep and stress problems only stack upon one another. Stress causes insomnia, which in turn causes stress, repeating in an unhealthy cycle. Here are some ways to reclaim our good sleep during these trying times.
With everything from school, to work, to groceries being moved to a stay-at-home activity, many beneficial activities we used to take for granted, are no longer present in our daily life. An important part of getting our sleep health back is scheduling. Getting used to work from home, it might be tempting to wait for the kids to go to bed to finish off the last touches on a work project, but that does more harm in the end. If we aren’t able to physically separate our workplace from our home, we should at least be separating our activities into concrete parts of our day. A good way to do this is to set up the time when you would normally be commuting to and from work, as the beginning and end and use the normal commute time as a sort of wind up and wind down from work mode. Put away the work stuff as much as possible so we’re not tempted to work on it when we’re in home mode. The same applies to bedtime. Set a half hour period aside to wind down, relax and breath, away from any screens or mentally stimulating activities. During this time, you should have all screens in the house off as the blue light from screens causes us to stop producing melatonin to prepare us for sleepy time. If there are any unfinished projects or tasks, write a list and forget about it to stop your mind from thinking about them while you’re getting ready for sleep. If you have dimmable lighting, set your lights to a moderately lower level to signal to your brain that it’s getting late. Keep your room temp, if possible, on the cooler side as this makes for deeper sleep and normally makes it easier to get into resting mode. A good sleepy time tea would be good during this winding down period. Adding this period to your schedule before bed every night will retrain your circadian rhythm to let you get more tired when you need to be tired. Setting up your schedule for optimal sleep will have positive benefits in every area of your life and will help get your sleep back on track.