How have you been sleeping? If you’re like the millions of Americans who the coronavirus pandemic impacted, then you probably haven’t been sleeping too well. Or maybe you never did. The fact is, poor sleep habits existed well before the pandemic –– it’s just made them even worse.
Enter the term “coronasomnia,” which describes the spike in poor sleep habits during the pandemic. Yes, it might have a punny name, but it isn’t a joke. An ongoing lack of sleep can have real impacts on your body –– it adds to your stress levels, can make you gain weight, and even damage your immune system.
How Did the Pandemic Affect How We Sleep?
Financial strain, healthy anxiety, and family separations, the pandemic has really been a choose your own adventure into stress. Now, over a year in, experts have found that our sleep patterns haven’t actually gotten any better, even if the strain we feel has gone down.
A 2020 summer survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that 20% of Americans reported having trouble sleeping during the pandemic. The follow-up survey conducted found that rates of sleep disturbances exploded, even though case numbers were falling.
The survey found:
- 60% of people have experienced pandemic-related insomnia.
- 50% said their sleep quality had gone down.
- People aged 35-44 reported the highest rate of sleep troubles at 70%.
- Men are more likely to use medication and other supplements to sleep.
When stress and anxiety levels are so high, it’s not entirely surprising that insomnia rose. Whether you have thrown off your sleep schedule by staying up late or sleeping too late into the day, there are still things you can do to get out of the coronasomnia loop. Here’s how to get your sleep habits back on track.
Our Top Tips to Beat Coronasomnia
Don’t Stay in Bed
We all know the nights: you’re in bed, staring at the ceiling and begging for sleep to find you. Now, this happens for a variety of reasons, but the outcome is the same, you’re not sleeping. Instead of staying in your bed and hoping to fall asleep, experts suggest you use the 20-minute rule.
If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Move to the couch or somewhere else and do something relaxing. Read a book or go get a glass of water. You don’t want to stay in bed because your brain will start associating your bed with something other than sleep. In general, you shouldn’t get in bed until you are ready to go to sleep.
Unplug From… Everything
We’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times, your electronics are keeping you up at night. Especially during the pandemic, it’s understandable to want to be in the loop of what’s going on globally. Endlessly scrolling through social media or news apps to stay up to date is called doomscrolling. Unfortunately, it’s a habit many of us developed during the pandemic, especially when we get in bed to try and fall asleep.
Not only does doomscrolling increase levels of stress, depression, and loneliness, but it also physically keeps you up at night! The blue light from your phone stops the influx of melatonin that naturally floods your brain as the sun goes down. It essentially tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime and you won’t begin to feel tired.
We recommend that you put your phone away and turn your TV off an hour before you go to sleep. This will give your body the signal to start releasing melatonin, and you fall asleep easier.
Revamp Your Routine
Our bodies love routines. We’ll talk about routine in two parts, the first being when you go to sleep. Our circadian rhythm (or sleep/wake cycle) is the internal clock that our bodies follow. We recommend that you go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Yes, that means even on the weekends. The more consistent you are, the better sleep you will get. If possible, keep when you go to sleep within the same 20-minute range.
The second part of your routine will be what you do leading up to getting into bed. You want your nighttime routine to be as relaxing as possible –– whatever that looks like for you. Some common recommendations are: reading a book, listening to music, taking a bath, or doing light yoga. Again, consistency is key. Whatever you choose to do each night, try and make it a habit.
Get Some Vitamin D
When most of the country was strictly locked down, it was more challenging than ever to get your daily dose of vitamin D. But as it turns out, sun exposure serves a significant role concerning our sleep –– it shuts down melatonin release in the body. Melatonin is the hormone that makes us feel tired, so by getting a bit of sunlight, you’ll be able to cut through that morning brain fog. It’s a good idea to aim for around 15 minutes of daylight each morning.
Try and Manage Your Caffeine Intake
We drink coffee to wake us up, and it does a pretty good job –– such an excellent job that it can keep you up at night if you drink it too late in the day. The half-life of caffeine in your body is about five hours. So if you have an evening soda or cup of coffee, you’ll still have a significant amount of caffeine floating around in your brain. It’s best to avoid caffeine after about 2 pm; that way, you give your body enough time to metabolize and get it out of your system.
Exercise has been shown to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer. We’re not saying you have to go out and run five miles each day or start lifting weights. Any amount of exercise regularly integrated into your routine will help increase the quality of your sleep.
Keep in mind that you want to avoid any heavy or rigorous workouts right before bed. Exercising will increase your core body temperature and keep you up at night. When you sleep, your body goes through a natural cycle of temperature –– it drops during the first two sleep stages and slowly goes back up as you wake.
Too Long, Didn’t Read?
The pandemic has changed the way we sleep, and things haven’t gotten better yet. The habits we formed during the pandemic could be impeding our ability to sleep. Thankfully, there’s still time to change things and get back on the right track. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try out these tips and let us know if they helped you!