Stress, anxiety, and depression during the first few weeks of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic were associated with less and lower quality sleep, according to a new study by researchers at Washington State University published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.
In a survey of more than 900 twins taken shortly after COVID-19 lockdown measures began, about half of the respondents reported no change in their sleep patterns, but around a third, 32.9 percent, reported decreased sleep. Another 29.8 percent reported sleeping more. In the analysis, the researchers found that any change in sleep was connected to self-reported mental health issues, though it was more strongly associated with decreased sleep.
The pandemic also offered an opportunity for a natural experiment to see how a stressful situation affects sleep amount and quality among individuals in the community, the researchers said.
While you might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. Start with these simple tips.
1. Stick to a sleep schedule
Set aside no more than eight hours for sleep. The recommended amount of time for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Most people don’t need more than eight hours in bed to achieve this goal.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try to limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you’re tired. Repeat as needed.
2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink
Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. In particular, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Your discomfort might keep you up.
Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality rest. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
3. Create a restful environment
Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Exposure to light might make it more challenging to fall asleep. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens just before bedtime. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.
Doing calming activities before bedtime, such as taking a bath or using relaxation techniques, might promote better rest.
4. Limit daytime naps
Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you choose to nap, limit yourself to up to 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day.
If you work nights, however, you might need to nap late in the day before work to help make up your sleep debt.
5. Include physical activity in your daily routine
Regular physical activity can promote better sleep. Avoid being active too close to bedtime, however.
Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too.
6. Manage stress
Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.
Stress management might help. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Meditation also can ease anxiety.
Source: Frontiers in Neuroscience