This is Why You Haven't Been Sleeping Well During the Pandemic
Updated: Sep 19, 2020
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most of us have deep-set bags under our eyes at this point. Waking up disoriented and asking what day it is has become commonplace. It’s been tough to get a good night’s sleep over the last few months and there’s quite a bit of research to show us why.
We sleep for about a third of our entire lives, so it’s important to ensure that time is as restful as possible. But when a global pandemic and is knocking on our door, it’s a little tough to get some restful shut-eye.
Shut-eye is crucial in aiding our learning ability, supporting our alertness, and even regulating our metabolism. You may have noticed all of those aspects have been upended since the Covid-19 outbreak began. So what’s really to blame for our nights upon nights of tossing and turning?
1. Stressed Out!
We’re all facing constant emotional stress. Whether it’s personal or in relation to the world at large, the bombardment of stressors in our everyday lives isn’t good for our health.
It’s no secret that emotional stress can really weigh on our mental well-being. Seeing upsetting imagery of our current world while worrying about the safety of our loved ones is taxing. Each and every one of us is experiencing some form of sudden trauma these days.
Studies have been conducted linking stressful life events to subjective sleep complaints as well as disrupted brainwave patterns normally associated with insomnia. Big changes in your life that introduce a lot of pressure or tension can interrupt our natural sleep pattern on a neurological level.
Of course, getting rid of every anxiety-inducing thing in our lives isn’t possible. But there are some manageable evidence-based ways to reduce stress. A few studies in 2018 found that walking in nature or even surrounding yourself with greenery can effectively combat feelings of distress and lessen the feeling of being overwhelmed. So, if nothing else, get your face mask and go out for a nice walk in your local park!
2. Screen Time
Now that we’re all stuck at home for the majority of our day, our eyes are focused on our screens. We’re in Zoom meetings for work, Facetime hangouts have become the new way to safely socialize, and all those new Netflix releases are keeping us entertained. That’s obviously a lot of time looking at a screen, but how much does that actually affect our sleeping patterns?
When the blue light emitted by our screens interacts with our eyes, it causes the production of our melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel tired, to slow down. It was also found that exposure to blue light throughout the day can have a serious effect on our circadian rhythm: the cycle that moves us through our routines and behavioral changes throughout the course of a day. This means that staying away from screens isn’t just something we need to worry about right before bed, but all day long.
There are ways around your excessive blue light consumption. Most modern devices have a blue light blocking filter that you can toggle on if you know you’re going to be looking down at your phone for extended periods of time.
Alternatively, you can also look into getting some blue light blocking glasses. They are specially made to combat the blue light that comes from screens and acts as a shield to protect eyes from harm. If you already wear glasses, you could request for a blue light blocking filter to be added to your next pair.
3. Couch Potato
Exercise throughout the day can make a big difference! Getting your body moving in any small way can really benefit you. In fact, Harvard found that walking only 30 minutes a day 5 days a week can drastically reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems as well as other physical issues.
But how does this help you sleep? It’s been hypothesized that quality sleep and quality exercise have a correlated relationship. Meaning, the more we regularly exercise, the more our body is ready for sleep at the end of the day. Studies have been done to try to dive deeper into this correlation, but have turned out to be inconclusive for one reason or another. Some claim the relationship is negligible, while others claim it’s very strong.
One thing is certain, people who exercise regularly experience a multitude of health benefits related to their metabolism, hormone levels, and overall emotional well-being. Plus we always sleep better after a long and exhausting day.
Just make sure you’re not exercising too close to bedtime since that can put stress on your nervous system and build up too much adrenaline for you to rest effectively when your bed finally does hit the pillow.
4. Stay Hydrated
When you’re sitting at home all day, it’s easy to forget to keep yourself hydrated. We don’t have our usual visual and environmental cues to tell us what part of our day we’re in anymore. Now it’s a challenge to keep our bodies topped up with water to assist in their everyday functions.
When it comes to sleep, you lose quite a bit of your body’s fluids while you rest. So keeping your body’s hydration levels up throughout the day ensures that we aren’t completely dehydrating while we sleep. This dehydration can cause discomfort and interrupt the amount of quality sleep we get in a night.
It’s recommended that over the course of our day (and not too close to bedtime), we get between 91 and 125 ounces of water into our system, depending on our biology. These amounts are just based on averages, so if you exercise more, you should also be hydrating much more due to fluid loss through sweat.
Of course, you may also be dealing with a much bigger issue. If you think that might be the case, contact your doctor. Ask them about at-home or remote sleep tests to help you determine how to best treat your symptoms.
We all deserve a good night’s sleep, especially during this international crisis. Whether you’re spending too much time gawking at outrageous Tweets or just not drinking enough water, try and set yourself up to have a good rest tonight. Putting a little extra effort throughout the day really is worth it.
Sleep well and stay safe!