We need sleep. It’s the foundation for our strong immune system and our psychological well-being. These are the two things we need to help us navigate this COVID-19 successfully.
When we don’t get enough sleep, here are some problems we face:
- A weakened immune system
- Poor judgment
- Heart problems
- Dull looking skin
- Weight gain tendency
- Drop in sex drive
Insomnia. That’s what it’s called when we don’t enough sleep.
It’s the inability to fall or stay asleep. It’s also an “unrefreshing” or poor sleep quality.
In early April, Google reported that the search for the word “insomnia” was at an all-time high! Many people are even seeing an increase in nightmares.
With the COVID-19 crisis, it seems a good night’s sleep is harder to come by. Our daily lives are totally upended as a direct result of this pandemic. From being laid off, to adjusting to working from home, to having the whole family in the house all day long!
Plus, there’s a body of growing knowledge out there that says Americans in “underserved communities” are disproportionately affected by the virus. They are brown and black people who have underlying health conditions like hypertension, asthma, and diabetes that make them particularly vulnerable to developing serious coronavirus-related symptoms.
And many of them work jobs that require in-person attendance, and have an increased risk of exposure to the virus!
“We know that sleep is directly related to immunity in terms of the physiological response in our body. If we’re not sleeping, we can reduce our immune system, we can increase inflammation in the body, which we know can then lead to being more vulnerable to various viruses or whatever might be in our environment,” Brittany LeMonda, PhD, a senior neuropsychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Since our quality of sleep plays a direct role in our body’s ability to fight off or keep us safe from viruses, we need to consider good “sleep hygiene” as a major factor in protecting our health.
What are ways to build good “sleep hygiene?”
First, practice a regular routine. But first, we have to get a routine!
Regardless of the reason for our chaotic lives, – job loss, job overload, kids home 24/7, coping with different communicating styles of our spouses – it’s importance to get and keep some kind of regular routine. This will help us get a good night’s sleep which will positively impact our immune systems!
Try a few of these ideas:
- Decide your wake and bed times–and stick to it!
According to Lisa Medalie, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine, the “loss of daytime structure,” and too much screen time are cutting into sleep.
- Choose you exercise time and type of activity.
The gym may be closed, but exercise should still be part of our daily routine. Research says we will feel more tired around bed time if we’ve physically exerted ourselves during the day.And, we’ll feel more accomplished as well. Plus select intentional stress relievers like yoga, deep breathing, staring out the window, running around the your space, biking in the back yard, etc.)
- Decide your work schedule and plan at least 2-3 breaks with the kids, for food or your mental health!
Dressing for work, even if we’re only going to the next room or working from our bedroom helps to focus our attention on business.
- Limit Your News Intake
Consuming covid-19 news 24/7 makes us more anxious and is sure to prevent a good night’s sleep! We must decide which news outlet(s), the time of day and how long to watch, whether it’s via television, phone or tablet) before we become upset and frustrated. Then stay disciplined for your sanity sake!
- Unplug At least an Hour Before Bed
The computer blue light (artificial lighting) at night can contribute to our sleep problems. The blue wavelength, can trick our brain into thinking it’s daytime! That blue light in the evening disrupts our brain’s natural sleep cycle. Lisa LeMonda suggests we stop watching the computer, phone and/or television an hour or more before bedtime. It’s better to read a book or listen to music as means of entertainment before bed.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has a bedtime calculator that will help you figure out what time to go to bed or wake up for better sleep health. The NSF is making this tool available free to the public in its effort to promote public awareness of the need for sufficient, restful sleep for individual and societal health and safety. The Bedroom Calculator is available at sleepfoundation.org/bedtimecalculator.
And, lastly, Audible and Thrive Global (Arianna Huffington) have come together to launch a collection of free sleep solutions designed to help people find rest during this difficult time.
The voices include Sean “Diddy” Combs, Nick Jonas and Gabby Bernstein and many others.
Helping each other find ways to be less stressed, in these unprecedented circumstances, will improve our own health and that of our loved ones.
Watch show replays here.