Healthy Sleep Tips During The Covid-19 Pandemic

Healthy Sleep Tips During The Covid-19 Pandemic
| by Linda Garvin

A good night’s sleep is a very important component in maintaining health. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, causing you to wake up throughout the night and not be able to get back to sleep. With our current self-isolation policies, many are more prone to anxiety and stress, which affects their ability to sleep throughout the night.

According to the CDC, adults need approximately seven hours of sleep a night and many people aren't getting it. Not getting enough sleep can have a negative impact on your ability to focus on the important tasks you need to perform throughout the day, your energy level and your quality of life. Lack of sleep can also worsen health conditions. Individuals who are sleep deprived may experience drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, remembering details and irritability.

In order to be able to avoid the adverse effects of insomnia, it is a good idea to be able to identify the types of activities, medications taken and beverages and foods ingested that can interfere with sleep, so you can have an opportunity to modify your behavior and perhaps reduce your chances of experiencing insomnia.

Here are some tips which may help improve the quality of our sleep:

1. Establish a Regular Bedtime Routine and Adjust Bedroom Temperature

It is also a good idea to establish a regular time to go to bed, as well as getting up in the morning. In addition, if a bedroom is too hot or too cold, this may affect one’s ability to get to sleep. It is important to take into consideration that for some peri-menopausal and menopausal woman, a good night’s sleep is dependent on different temperatures throughout the night.

2. Reduce the Level of Stimulation before Bedtime

To improve the quality of your sleep, first start by decreasing the noise level in your bedroom or room you are spending the last one to two hours in prior to bedtime. Whether you are watching television or listening to music, start to lower the volume slightly at least one hour before bedtime. Also, begin to dim the lights around an hour before retiring. Trying both of these suggestions each will decrease the amount of stimulation your senses and body are exposed to. It is also a good idea to avoid keeping or using a computer in your bedroom.

3. Avoid Foods and Beverages That Negatively Effect Sleep

The type of foods and beverages you consume both have an enormous impact on your ability to get to sleep. In order to minimize negative impacts on sleep try the following food and beverage suggestions:

  • Any food that is spicy, hot or has the potential to cause gastrointestinal upset should be avoided at dinner time.
  • Avoid caffeine containing beverages [tea, coffee, diet pepsi, mountain dew or chocolate] at least eight hours prior to bedtime.
  • Contrary to what you might think, alcohol can interfere with sleep. If you want an alcoholic drink, you may want try abstaining from alcohol two hours prior to bedtime.
  • Ingesting protein prior to going to bed requires the body to work hard to metabolize this type of food interfering with the body’s ability to relax and induce sleep.
  • Limit the amount of fluids you drink before retiring. If you have an overactive bladder, you may want to limit fluids 2-3 hours prior to bedtime.
  • A light evening snack that contains Tryptophan may assist in relaxation and aid in falling asleep. Some examples of foods that contain Tryptophan are cheese, eggs, cottage cheese, milk, nuts, brown rice, bananas and turkey.

4. Avoid Medications That Interfere With Sleep

It is a wise idea to check the medications you are taking with your pharmacist to see if any of these prescription or non-prescription medications could be affecting your sleep. In addition, if you suffer from chronic pain, check with your physician to make sure that your pain medication is adequate throughout the night so bodily discomfort and pain is not contributing to your insomnia.

Some non-prescription medications that contain caffeine, which can interfere with sleep, include Darvon Compound, Fiorinal, Excedrin, and Midol. Some drug categories that negatively affect sleep quality are Corticosteroids, Diuretics, Antidepressants, Beta blockers, Nicotine and Alcohol.

5. Develop an Effective Exercise Program

Although a routine exercise program may reduce or help prevent insomnia, one should not engage in aerobic activity at least three hours before bedtime. Some individuals feel that gentle stretching exercises assist their body to relax if done 1-2 hours prior to bedtime. Progressive relaxation, imagery, meditation, and certain relaxing breathing techniques have been reported as helpful for some people if practiced before bedtime.

6. Take a Bath to Relax a few Hours prior to Bedtime

Many people find a bath relaxing prior to bedtime. However, with some women, if the bath is within an hour of bedtime the warm bath water can trigger hot flashes, which can interfere with sleep. So plan your bath time accordingly.

7. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Educate yourself about various relaxation techniques, including, but not limited to progressive relaxation, meditation or imagery 1-2 hours prior to bedtime. Remember to use your bedroom for sleep, relaxation and sex. There are numerous web sites and u-tube videos with instructions on practicing mind- body techniques for relaxation.

8. Do Not Concentrate on Mental or Emotional Problems

Along with relaxation techniques, remember that your thoughts and images prior to bedtime will also affect your sleep. If possible, try to establish a habit of not focusing or ruminating about problematic or painful emotional issues at least one hour prior to bed time.

9. Bed and Pillow Comfort

Check your mattress, box spring and pillows to make sure they are not worn out or have “lost their support”. Ask yourself if you have developed any neck, back, or hip pain over the past few months. If so, you may need to purchase a new mattress, box spring and pillows.

10. Keep a Sleep Diary

A sleep diary can be very helpful, revealing valuable cues as to some possible causes of your insomnia. A helpful recommendation would be to bring your sleep diary when meeting with your physician or nurse consultant. After reviewing the specific details from this diary, you could receive valuable advice on improving your sleep. With a sleep diary, you would document a record of some of your day time and evening habits that might reveal some habits that are thwarting your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. You can check with your health professional to see if they would prefer one week or one month of documentation.

This is a list of some helpful information to include in your sleep diary:

Include the time of the day for each piece of information documented.

• A complete list of all the medications including vitamins, non-prescription and prescription medications you are currently taking each day.

• List all the foods [including snacks] and beverages [including alcohol] you consume in a 24 hour period.

• List any caffeine or nicotine ingestion.

• Include your bedtime regime [time you went to bed, how long it took to fall asleep, how many times you woke up during the night and behavior that occurred as a result of waking up, total hours of sleep, quality of sleep and any other pertinent data.

• Include your general mood and stress levels, including day and night time hours, as well as when you awaken in the middle of the night.

f you have not had improved sleep after trying these suggestions, you may want to request a referral to a Sleep Clinic or Sleep Specialist.