Having trouble falling asleep? You’re certainly not alone. The outbreak of the coronavirus has turned up the stress dial in all sorts of ways. Here are some things to look at (and what to do about them) to get a good night’s sleep.
It’s difficult to fall asleep when you don’t know what the news will hold tomorrow. Our sleep is being disrupted due to a virus spreading around the world. But being sick isn’t—for most of us, thankfully—what’s keeping us awake.
I know some folks have only bumped their bed- and wake-up times by a few hours and are still getting the same amount of sleep. Then, there are those like me, who are battling what seems like endless insomnia and napping in the middle of the day to make up for the lack of sleep at night.
If you just can’t put your finger on what’s keeping you up, it could be one or more of these things.
These days, it’s more than your bright screens keeping you awake; it’s what’s happening on those screens. Even the most innocent commercials about coronavirus and stay-at-home orders can boost anxiety and make it harder to turn off your brain when it’s time to go to sleep at night. Even though they help us visualize the scope of the outbreak, and what’s changing around the world, outbreak tracking boards can make it feel like the world is ending.
Put your phone away a couple of hours before bed, and don’t take it to bed with you. Pass on the 11 o’clock news. Right now, even good news can be depressing. Save your state-of-the-world updates for first thing in the morning. This gives you the rest of the day to process it, so you can get to bed at night.
Fear of Getting Sick
Stress and anxiety come from all sorts of places, and it seems like right now, even more people are being affected. A single cough can throw you into a panic, wondering if it’s the first sign that you’ve contracted coronavirus. Given the wide range of coronavirus symptoms, every illness, big or small, feels like it might be the beginning of the end.
If you make sure you’re taking the right precautions, you decrease your risk of getting sick. Stay home when you can, and be sure to wear a mask when you’re going to be around people who don’t live in your home. Wash your hands thoroughly and effectively, but do resist the urge to feel like fatigue or a headache is a sign you’ve picked it up from somewhere. Think about how many times in your life you’ve felt tired or had a headache that wasn’t a dangerous infection.
For millions of people, the main source of stress is not being able to work, having to work at home with a house full of kids, or being a front-line worker with an increased risk of getting sick on the job. No matter your current work status, there’s bound to be some stress involved.
The important thing is to remember that all of this is temporary. Do the best you can with what you have. Save money where you can, apply for unemployment, and enjoy the extra time with your children, significant other, or roommates.
An Unbalanced Diet
I stress eat, and right now, stress is a factor of everyday life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been eating too much of what she shouldn’t, and too little of the foods that would better benefit a restful night.
If you’re overeating or snacking too much, consider scheduling your snacks and sticking with that plan. Try to buy fewer snacks and junk foods when you do get to the grocery store. Pay attention to meal portions, and consider eating smaller portions more often throughout the day, instead of snacking. Add fruits and vegetables to every meal you can—and, by all means, wash them, but skip the soap.
Eating Too Close to Bedtime
What you eat matters when it comes to inducing healthy sleep patterns, but so does when you eat. If you’re eating meals or snacking too close to bedtime, it can cause all sorts of indigestion problems. Thanks to eating close to bedtime and a disrupted sleep schedule, I’ve been battling a resurgence of heartburn and acid reflux problems I haven’t had to deal with for over a year.
Try not to eat any meals or big snacks within three hours of going to bed. It also might be wise to cut down how much you drink before bed. Even drinking too much water can have you getting up too often to use the facilities and disrupting a good night’s sleep.
All Those Naps
Finally, resist the urge to nap. I’m pretty sure of all the coronavirus-outbreak-related issues that are conspiring to throw off my sleep schedule, naps have done the most damage. The unscheduled naps I’ve been taking due to stress and depression, and the resulting difficulty falling asleep and late hours, just fuel the cycle.
I don’t get a good night’s sleep, and then I feel tired the next day and want to take a nap (and I can because I’m stuck at home in quarantine). The next night comes, and I end up staying up late and end up tired and wanting to nap the next day which just continues the cycle. I’m hardly alone in finding afternoon quarantine naps to be the death of good sleep habits.
Naps are great, and they can help boost your energy for the rest of the day. However, you have to nap smart to get the best results. Don’t nap more than once a day. If you need one, get it out of the way earlier in the day. If you nap too close to your intended bedtime, it will keep you up longer when it’s time to go to sleep.
It’s ironic that right at the time when you’re most stressed, you need to exert extra mental effort to focus on getting better sleep. Once you address the issues that are disrupting your sleep, though, it makes it easier to get more of it. This will give you the energy and mental clarity to better handle any stress.