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  • Danielle Ibelema, MD

Sleep Problems During the Pandemic and How to Solve Them


Have you been worried that you aren’t getting enough sleep? If so, you aren’t alone. A 2020 scientific study of Google trends revealed that searches for insomnia increased by 58% since the pandemic began. The researchers of this study concluded that COVID has dramatically affected sleep health. Here’s why it’s happening, why it matters, and how you can improve your sleep hygiene.


What’s Behind Pandemic-Related Sleep Problems?


This current health crisis has impacted everyone’s lives, whether you or someone you love has become ill or not. Several factors came together in 2020 to create a challenging situation in which sleep doesn’t come easily.


Stress

The emergence and continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a variety of factors that increase stress dramatically. Here are some of the most common sources of COVID-related stress.

· Worries that you or someone you love will get sick or die

· Financial problems

· New learning situations and increased responsibilities for children’s education

· Adapting to new habits, such as mask-wearing, social distancing, or being quarantined

· Pressure to conform to or rebel against these suggested health measures

· Reduced opportunities to get social support

· Closing of gyms and other exercise venues


Disrupted Schedules

Since the pandemic hit, nearly everyone has had to rethink their schedules. As you spend more time at home, many of your old routines become impossible, or at best, harder to continue. Your first reaction might have been a sense of freedom. But unless you put in the effort to devise a healthy schedule, that freedom can quickly turn into chaos or inactivity. And what you do during the day can affect when and how much you sleep.


Why Your Sleep Matters


If you don’t sleep well during the night, you’ll probably feel tired the next day. As the days progress, you may start to feel exhausted. Yet, that isn’t the only problem caused by lack of sleep. People who don’t sleep well tend to gain weight easily, according to one research review. And, if you have trouble sleeping, any anxiety or other mental health problems you already had can multiply rapidly. Poor sleep can also negatively impact chronic medical conditions as well.


How to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene


So, what can you do to maintain a healthy sleep schedule now that the coronavirus has turned your world upside down? The two best ways to get better sleep are to improve your sleep hygiene and reach out for help.


Sleep Hygiene Tips

Sleep hygiene is the term for all the habits that influence your sleep. Here are some practices you can adopt to sleep better consistently.

· Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.

· Avoid long naps. If you can’t stay awake during the entire day, limit yourself to one half-hour nap.

· Use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex if possible. If you must make a home office corner in your bedroom, make some division between the workspace and the bed area. A folding screen can help.

· Keep your bedroom quiet and dark at bedtime.

· Avoid using electronics for at least one hour before bedtime.

· Find a way to exercise each day. Examples include working out to an exercise video or taking a socially distanced walk or run in your neighborhood.

· Avoid eating a large meal right before you go to bed.

· Avoid drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages in the late afternoon or evening.


How Your Doctor or Psychiatrist Can Help

Suppose you’ve already tried to develop better sleep hygiene. What else can you do? A physician might provide you with more effective solutions. Medication or therapy may be the answer you need.

Your doctor can prescribe sleep medications. Some types of medication help you go to sleep, while others can help you stay asleep longer. Also, medications to address anxiety and other mental health difficulties can improve your sleep. For lasting improvement, you might benefit from psychotherapy. During therapy, you can address your stress and anxiety. You can also work with your therapist to develop and follow a plan to change your habits and stick to a healthy schedule.

Sleep is vital to your health and wellbeing. Now is the perfect time to take control of your sleep patterns by practicing good sleep hygiene and getting the help you need.


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©2018 BY MIDTOWN PSYCHIATRY, DR. DANIELLE IBELEMA - PSYCHIATRIST