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Sleep Well During the Pandemic: 7 Steps You Can Take Now to Sleep Better Tonight

Sleep Well During the Pandemic: 7 Steps You Can Take Now to Sleep Better Tonight

“Getting enough sleep is not a luxury – it is something people need for good health.” CDC

Not only is the pandemic having a devastating impact on our waking world, but our sleep can also be affected by the multitude of uncertainties we face. If you’re one of the many people who find themselves lying awake in the wee hours, read on to learn how to sleep well during the pandemic.

Humans thrive on routine and social connections. Both have been significantly disrupted. Many of us are working from home, which requires a dramatic shift in routine. We no longer have the physical separation between our work and our home lives, and this can make it hard to “switch off”. As we adjust to different schedules and requirements, maintaining good sleep habits can fall by the wayside.

Not only are we experiencing significant changes in routine, but our interactions are often mediated through screens rather than face-to-face. While we’re managing concerns for ourselves and our loved ones, we’re unable to connect in person with our family and friends. Some of our normal coping mechanisms are unavailable, and this may lead to unhealthy methods of managing emotions. Just when you need to put the day behind you and get some sleep, your racing thoughts keep you wide awake.

Sleep has a direct impact on our health and our quality of life. We’ve all experienced a decreased ability to focus and higher levels of irritability after a poor night’s sleep. Over time, poor sleep can negatively impact our decision-making, our emotional and mental health, and our immune system. Chronic sleep loss is associated with cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, and type 2 diabetes. It may not be easy to fall asleep naturally, but you can teach yourself to sleep well.

Personally, I am a worrier. I used to struggle to get to sleep and then I would wake up with racing thoughts. Fortunately, it’s possible to consciously work with our bodies as we facilitate the right conditions for a good night’s sleep. For myself, and for many of our patients experiencing the same difficulties, I’ve found these simple habits to be effective for helping me to sleep well:

1. Set your schedule and comfort routine

Particularly as we are staying inside more, make sure you follow time cues throughout the day. Give yourself structured time to wake up and go to bed, work, exercise and socialize. About an hour before bedtime, create a routine that will calm your mind and cue your body to prepare for sleep. This might include music, scented candles, or a calming book. I find that a bath and positive self-talk are particularly helpful for me. Physiologically, a warm bath means your extremities are a higher temperature, which helps lower your core temperature ready for sleep. With self-talk, I remind myself that it is time to sleep; I can resolve the problem tomorrow, after a good night’s rest.

2. Build positive association with your bedroom

If we are working and resting in the same area, our minds can have trouble switching from active problem-solving to sleep mode. Keep your work out of the bedroom. Even watching TV can wake up your brain and make sleep more difficult.

3. Monitor your exposure to light

When possible, try to go outside during daylight for at least 30 minutes. Open your blinds, or windows, as natural light helps regulate your circadian rhythm. Natural light exposure stimulates serotonin production, the hormone that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. It also helps dopamine production, which gives us a sense of wellbeing. On the other hand, blue light – including cellphones, TVs, and other screens – suppresses the production of melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’.

4. Stay active

Regular exercise is another way to reduce the body’s stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol. Exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins, neurochemicals that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Whether you are joining a live-streamed gym class or taking a brisk walk, early morning is generally considered the best time for exercise. It’s best to stick to quieter activities after dinner to wind down and get ready for sleep.

5. Practice kindness and gratitude, foster connection

In the words of Mr. Rogers, “Look for the helpers.” With all the negative news stories available, take care to monitor the time you spend on news sites and social media. Just as our body needs a balanced diet, our minds also need a balanced intake. While a constant stream of information and racing thoughts can trigger our bodies to be adrenalized, practicing gratitude calms our thoughts. Writing in a gratitude journal has been linked to lower stress levels and better sleep.  Schedule time to check in with loved ones and take an opportunity for fun and enjoyment.

6. Use relaxation techniques

Mindfulness and relaxation have been shown to have a positive impact on our bodies and sleep patterns. They are a physical signal to our body that it is time to relax and that we’re no longer in fight or flight mode. Try this deep breathing exercise: inhale for 4 seconds, filling your lungs completely, and then exhale slowly as you focus on each part of your body. Starting with your toes and ending with the top of your head, use this as a controlled way to relax your whole body. Our patients have also found that yoga and meditation are helpful exercises to include in their nightly comfort routine.

7. Watch what and when you eat and drink

Last but not least, take care of your body and your gut-brain connection through healthy eating. The gut-brain connection, or enteric nervous system, has a clear impact on mood and hormone production. As part of a healthy eating habit, enjoy whole plant foods with high fiber and whole grains to help your digestive system and decrease inflammation. Establish a clear routine with regular times for meals. Plan an earlier dinner so you’re not digesting large amounts of food overnight.

Experimenting with these methods and working with one of our team members can help you understand your own sleep needs and what works best for you. We know that being in a supportive community has tremendous power to bring about change. At Lifestyle Medical, we believe in a whole-person approach that empowers you to take control of your health. We recognize that providing support systems for healthy, sustainable habits leads to long-term benefits, not only in by reducing health conditions but by significantly improving quality of life.

If you would like to meet with our team, you can schedule a free appointment, or contact us at (951) 783 4009 or hello@lifestylemedical.com

Take the first step, contact us at (951)742-7324 or info@lifestylemedical.com for your free appointment.

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We know how it feels when health issues get in the way of activities that you used to love, or spending time with your loved ones. Lifestyle Medical is a primary care provider dedicated to empowering people to make healthier lifestyle choices. Many of our members have reversed chronic conditions, reduced medications, and regained their energy and joy.

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