We know that along with good nutrition, exercise and emotional connection, quality sleep is vital during times of increased stress. Yet for many of us, it seems harder to achieve now that usual.
If you’re struggling to settle down or stay asleep at night, review this checklist to make sure your sleep hygiene is designed for ultimate rest.
1. Get the right light exposure.
Blue light exposure from the TV, laptop or phone inhibits melatonin production — a vital sleep driver. Skip late evening social media scrolling and binge-watching and opt for reading under dim light instead.
Equally important is getting ample natural light exposure in the morning and early afternoon because it helps maintain the body’s natural wake-sleep cycle. Prioritize getting outside (even on a rainy or overcast day).
2. Prioritize connection.
Feeling emotionally secure plays a significant role in being able to sleep well. Make time for connecting with your spouse, a family member or friend — while maintaining proper physical distancing etiquette — and discuss your worries and fears so that they are less likely to fill your mind at bedtime.
3. Curate your news intake.
It’s important to stay informed, but information overload can inhibit our ability to calm down before sleep. Following 9/11, PTSD-like stress symptoms were present in people who weren’t anywhere near the tragedy — so it’s crucial to set boundaries. Select one or two trusted news sources to refer to and devote a limited time to reading updates each day, as opposed to keeping the radio or TV on at all times.
Your body needs to be physically tired in order to sleep well. Schedule time each day to exercise outdoors or using a virtual program — ideally before you eat dinner. Exercise endorphins are a fantastic mood-booster, but they are stimulating and can also interfere with sleep.
5. Resist naps.
Suffering from insomnia and working from home can make it tempting and convenient to enjoy a nap. Unfortunately, long naps or those taking place too close to bedtime can wreak havoc on your circadian rhythm and make it harder to get back on track.
6. Skip the nightcap.
A drink or two may seem like an effective way to unwind before bed, but it’s actually one of the top culprits of interrupted sleep. If you choose to have an alcoholic drink on occasion, enjoying it earlier in the evening is a better choice.
7. Establish a consistent sleep schedule.
If staying home has derailed your normal sleep schedule, setting a consistent daily bedtime and wake time is one of the easiest ways to reset it. Our bodies are designed to function on a 24-hour cycle that coincides with natural light — even during a pandemic.
If you’re experiencing persistent insomnia, contact your primary care physician or log onto your virtual care platform for advice.
For more information, check out Sleep hygiene to fight COVID-19, Dr. Diane McIntosh, Psychiatrist, Chief Neuroscience Officer, TELUS