Unable to fall asleep due to COVID-19 anxiety?
If you’re having trouble sleeping right now, you’re not alone: The COVID-19 pandemic is causing people around the world to take anxiety to bed with them at night. And the stress is coming from a myriad of directions, as we lie awake worrying about contracting the virus ourselves, our loved ones contracting the virus, losing our jobs or other repercussions. Not to mention, there’s a good chance that your day-to-day schedule has been completely disrupted, your community has been all but shut down and/or you are now adjusting to working from home. In other words, it’s a lot all at once.
In this unprecedented time, all the regular rules are break down. Pouring cocktails at 2 pm, binge news, staying up late to watch Netflix until 2 am, sleeping late, etc. You should follow the “rules” of care because they are more important to your physical and mental health than ever before. Over time, insomnia caused by stress can lead to chronic insomnia, depression, or damage to the immune system.
Why you should maintain a stable sleep wake-up schedule now?
Even if you are working from home, you should stick to a stable sleep-wake plan, which is similar to the plan when you go to work every day. The reasons are as follows:
- Sleep and mental health: Sleep, anxiety and depression coexist. Many people with depression have insomnia, and many people with insomnia will eventually continue to develop depression. To prevent this, it is important to ensure REM sleep when you fall asleep and do most of the emotional processing work. If you have lost REM sleep due to poor sleep hygiene or excessive drinking, it is understandable that anxiety or depression may increase. Staying up late or staying up late may also completely disrupt your circadian rhythm, making it more difficult to adjust when you return to your normal work schedule.
- Sleep and physical health: When you want to stimulate immunity, the last thing you need to do is to damage the body's natural defenses because of fatigue. However, stress and anxiety can damage your immune system, because when you are stressed, more cortisol is often produced. Cortisol can suppress the production of immune effector cells and cytokines needed to fight infection, which is one of the reasons why people who are constantly stressed are more likely to contract certain diseases than people who are not stressed and sleep well.
It ’s important to get a good night ’s sleep when stress is high, because stress is mutual: the less sleep, the more difficult it is to cope with stress. Moreover, the more stressed you are, the harder it is to fall asleep. If you cannot sleep now, please cheer up. You can take some measures to manage stress, thereby improving sleep time and sleep quality.
Here are some of the suggestions I’ve been sharing with:
- Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule: Go to bed at the same time every night. Choose a time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss or turn. Try not to break this routine on weekends when it may be tempting to stay up late. If you want lo change your bedtime, help your body adjust by making the change in small daily increments, such as 15 minutes earlier or later each day.
- Exercise early: Exercise helps promote restful sleep if it is done several hours before you go to bed. Exercise can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly— as long as it ’s done at the right time. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed or work out earlier in the day.
- Say no to the screen at night: Before going to bed, resist the urge to check your phone or tablet. Of course, if you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t reach for these devices because they will only make you more anxious. The blue light emitted by these devices will suppress the melatonin your brain is trying to produce, and will suppress melatonin for a long time, making it difficult for you to fall asleep.
- Keep your room dark and cool: When it’s time to sleep, make sure that your environment is dark. Even dim light —especially those from TV or computer screens —can confuse the body clock. Heavy curtains or shades can help block light from windows, or you can try an eye mask to cover your eyes. The temperature of your bedroom also affects sleep. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.
- Consult your doctor: Use a sleep diary and talk to your doctor. Note what type of sleep problem is affecting your sleep or if you are sleepy when you wish to be awake and alert. Try these tips and record your sleep and sleep-related activities in a sleep diary. If problems continue, discuss the sleep diary with your doctor. There may be an underlying cause and you will want to be properly diagnosed. Your doctor will help treat the problem or may refer you to a sleep specialist.