I Can’t Sleep During This Pandemic!
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted so many lives in just a short period of time. The chronic effects of stress and uncertainty, learning new ways of working from home, job layoffs and financial worries, isolation from families and friends, and the growing numbers of people getting sick can weigh heavily on our minds. It’s no wonder I am hearing the same concern from so many people: I can’t sleep during this pandemic!
Sleep issues range from trouble falling asleep to waking suddenly in the pre-dawn hours, mind racing down that highway of distress with no exit ramp in sight. The next morning you feel tired, cranky and more anxious…and the cycle continues.
You Still Have Control
It is important to remember through this COVID crisis that there are still things within your control. One of these is practicing good self-care. You must take care of yourself and listen deeply to what your body needs right now. Staying as healthy as you can includes getting a sufficient amount of quality sleep. Sleep helps to boost the immune system, reduce the risk of infection, and could potentially improve your outcome if you do become sick.
Here are 8 helpful tips to improve your quality of sleep during this challenging time:
Limit the amount of screen time prior to going to sleep. The blue light from your smart phone, tablet, laptop and other screens tells your brain to stop producing melatonin (a sleep hormone), which can lead to trouble falling asleep.
- Try to keep a schedule while at home and avoid taking long naps that may disrupt your nighttime sleep cycle.
- Monitor your intake of caffeine and alcohol—both of these can cause wakefulness.
- Create a soothing ritual for yourself prior to sleep, such as taking a bath, reading a book, or meditating.
- Limit media exposure, especially right before bedtime.
- Take time to connect with others. We may be social distancing, but that doesn't mean we have to socially isolate. We need each other right now!
- Try using a weighted blanket, which may help to improve the quality of your sleep.
- Try this mindfulness exercise to help relax the autonomic nervous system:
20 Breaths Practice
This is a simple tool to help you create a powerful moment of relaxation and shift from feelings of stress and anxiety. By practicing this technique, you will learn how to tap into the natural, calming resource within yourself that is never further away than your next breath. Here’s how it works:
- Come to a complete stop of whatever you are doing or thinking.
- Take in one breath, giving it your complete attention. Noticing the inhale, the pause on the end of the inhale, and then the exhale and the slight pause on the end of the exhale.
- Repeat this for 20 breaths, using your fingers to count. Don't try to change the rhythm of your breath; just breathe naturally. The goal is to be present with each breath, staying in the moment and thinking only about the breath you are taking.
- If your mind starts to wander, simply notice the distraction and gently bring yourself back to your next breath.
- Be gentle and kind to yourself during this practice.
You may find yourself feeling very relaxed or even drifting to sleep while doing this exercise. Like meditation, 20 Breaths is a practice—the more you try it, the more effective it will become. Practice regularly to activate relaxation, rest and hopefully a better night's sleep!
Marygrace Lomboy, MSN, CRNP, ACHPN, CWCN
Marygrace Lomboy, MSN, CRNP, ACHPN, CWCN, is an educator with LG Health Holistic Therapy. She completed the teacher-training program in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at the University of California, San Diego, before becoming a certified yoga instructor. As a continuing education speaker, she has provided seminars across the country in mindfulness, anxiety reduction, palliative care, wound management, compassion fatigue, and resiliency.