By Whitney Roban, PhD
While speaking with my son’s high school guidance counselor the other day, she told me that even her very best students are struggling with learning during the global pandemic. The same could be said for sleep, as even the best sleepers are currently experiencing challenges to their slumber. As a family, educational and corporate sleep specialist for the past 15 years, this really doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Anxiety is the No. 1 cause of sleep disturbances, and the uncontrollable nature of the current pandemic has led to a collective state of heightened anxiety. The good news is that there is a way to lower anxiety levels. To do so, you must switch your focus to something you can control. One such thing is your sleep.
Before COVID-19 reared its ugly head a few months ago, sleep was a significant problem for approximately 30 percent of us. The latest statistics raise that percentage to as high as an alarming 77 percent. As such, my phone is ringing off the hook in my private sleep practice, and I’m also receiving requests from schools and corporations wanting to offer healthy sleep webinars to their students and employees. Sleep has been a hot topic for several years, but certainly not a priority in many people’s busy lives. We may not yet know if any of us have a true immunity to COVID-19, but what we do know for sure is that none of us are immune to the negative effects of sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic to strip bare the naked truth about sleep: Healthy sleep is something none of us can live without. COVID-19 may have been the wake-up call the sleep-deprived world needed.
If you are looking to get more z’s right now, here are my top 10 sleep tips for the COVID-19 era:
1. Determine an appropriate bedtime and wake-up time in order to get the required amount of sleep. Most adults need an average of eight hours of sleep per night.
2. Create and consistently follow a personal daily sleep schedule.
3. Seek natural sunlight upon awakening and throughout the day in order to regulate your circadian rhythm (the sleep/wake cycle).
4. Exercise for at least 20 minutes during the day, and avoid strenuous exercise at least two hours before bed.
5. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon, as well as eating heavy meals and drinking alcohol close to bedtime.
6. Wind down daily activities, including the use of electronic devices, at least one hour before bed.
7. Prepare living space for sleep. Your sleep environment should be dark, cool and quiet.
8. Create a relaxing bedtime routine. This can include activities such as journaling, meditating, deep breathing and yoga stretches.
9. Use bedtime routines consistently to signal sleep to the mind and body.
10. Accept the importance of sleep in your life, and make it a priority.
Fixing your sleep problems now will offer endless benefits to your physical and mental health. I always say that sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s something we all want, but also something we all need. Use this newfound slower pace of life while sheltering in place to improve your overall health and well-being. This is truly something we all need to do in this battle to beat COVID-19. Stay well and sleep well.
Whitney Roban is a family, educational and corporate sleep specialist at Solve Our Sleep, solveoursleep.com