Mind the Brain: Sleep and Stress During COVID-19Jul 16, 2020
TIPS TO IMPROVE SLEEP DURING COVID-19
1. Establish a Sleep Routine
Try to stick to a regular sleep and wake up time. If your work shifts change frequently, still try to use the same bedtime rituals each day.
2. Wind Down Before Bed
Identify a relaxing routine 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Take a bath or hot shower, transition into sleepwear, read a book, listen to calming music or a guided meditation. Use the same routine before turning off the lights. You are signaling to your body to let go of the day and that sleep is coming.
3. Aerobic Exercise Helps Sleep
Prioritize 30-45 minutes of daily aerobic exercise to raise your body temperature and release endorphins which mitigate insomnia. Try dancing to your favorite music, going for a run or bike ride, walking quickly or consider an online aerobic video. Even a 10-minute walk around your neighborhood or house is better than no exercise at all.
4. Limit Screen Time an Hour Before Bed
Blue light can suppress the natural production of melatonin and shift your wake-sleep cycle to a later bedtime.
5. Avoid Activating Your Brain Before and in Bed
Place your phone away from the bed, skip distressing news or TV shows and save social media for the next day. Practice relaxing, low and slow breathing or use guided meditations. If you are still awake after 30 minutes, get out of bed, sit in a quiet room with low lighting and engage in a relaxing (and boring!) activity until you feel sleepy again and return to bed.
6. Minimize Drug and Alcohol Use Before Bed
Alcohol and recreational drugs have been shown to alter sleep quality and reduce the amount of restorative sleep. Limit THC use in any form.
If using caffeine to help stay awake on a night shift, start near the beginning of the shift before you become sleepy and then have a second cup about five hours later. Avoid drinking caffeine all the time as you may become less sensitive to its alerting properties. Combining caffeine and a short nap is also an effective way at promoting alertness. Have a cup immediately prior to a 15-30 min nap and the caffeine will kick in when you near the end of the nap.
8. Daytime Sleep
Use blackout curtains and white noise machines or apps, and keep bedrooms cool. If you have family or roommates at home, request periods of quiet time to ensure uninterrupted daytime sleep.
9. Quiet Your Brain
During highly stressful times, meditation can reduce daily worries and physiological arousal of stress, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. Guided sleep meditations are available on apps such as Calm and Headspace. If meditation isn’t right for you, distraction with other activities can be calming as well.
10. Restorative Yoga
This gentle, slow yoga practice uses props like blankets or pillows to hold relaxing poses. It is great for beginners and individuals of all ages and is deeply relaxing and ideal for releasing the stress of the day and for transition to bedtime. There are plenty of restorative yoga classes online. Search YouTube or check out a yoga studio that may be offering online classes.
Seek sunlight during the day whenever possible. During night shifts, use bright lights to keep your work space well-lit. Exposure to bright light activates circadian rhythms signaling daytime. At the end of day or end of shift, use soft lighting, turn off overhead lights, and close curtains to signal your body for nighttime and time for rest. Naps before a night shift in the evening can help you catch up on sleep and enhance wakefulness on a shift. For early morning shifts, maintaining an early schedule in general will be of benefit. To adopt an earlier schedule reduce exposure to light at night and increase it in the morning. See tips here.
If you can’t sleep or have difficulties with sleepiness even when the sleep opportunity is adequate each day, then speak to a sleep medicine provider as there may be an undiagnosed sleep problem. If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep for more than 4-5 nights or experiencing distressing dreams or nightmares, please reach out to 303-724-4987 for a consultation with our sleep experts.
College Professor of Distinction, Integrative Physiology
Director, Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory
University of Colorado Boulder
Mind the Brain CME Information:
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