Are you struggling with sleep? Has it become more difficult to get the sleep you need since we started social distancing?
You are not alone! So, why are we struggling to sleep more during COVID-19?
There are two main reasons for our increased trouble with sleep. First, many of us are experiencing higher levels of stress or anxiety, and secondly, our routines may have changed significantly.
When we have uncertainty in our lives, our stress increases. We may be worrying about our families, our health or our businesses. We may be balancing childcare and other responsibilities that we had help with before COVID-19. Our nervous system then goes into high-alert, ready to protect us from danger. If we need to stay alert and ready to protect ourselves and our families from danger, we cannot be sleeping. Even though we know that we are safe in our beds, our nervous system may not get the message. There are good strategies to help our nervous system get the message such as adding more laughter into your day, singing, deep breathing, meditation, exercise or yoga.
Allowing the nervous system to feel safer throughout the day, will allow our nervous system to feel safer at bedtime. I recommend adding in about 30 minutes of movement, 30 minutes of laughter and 30 minutes of a contemplative activity (meditation, prayer, deep breathing) each day. These can be broken up into smaller chunks throughout the day. Over time, your nervous system will start to get the message that you are safe and can rest.
To sleep well, we depend on regular cues to keep a rhythm to the day. The two biggest cues that humans use are daylight and the time that food is available. We have evolved to be awake when it is light and when we have food available.
During social distancing, we often have fewer time specific commitments. Also, if we are home more, we may be lacking external time cues such as daylight hours. We may be eating at inconsistent times. Having some set times during the day can help us re-establish our daily rhythms. For example, can you set a regular wake up time even if it is different than normal? Can you establish set mealtimes? Can you get outside during the daylight hours?
I have put together a free booklet entitled Build Your Day for Better Sleep. Please download a copy at sarahgoodOT.ca/sleep.
Author: Sarah Good
Bio: Sarah Good is based out of Ottawa, Ontario. She is the Founder of Sarah Good Occupational Therapy, where she supports people living with chronic pain, women’s health issues, or mood disorders in becoming more active and living their lives more fully. To receive regular tips, please join her mailing list. Sarah also provides learning opportunities for other OTs.
Is the Covid-19 Pandemic Keeping You Awake at Night? Here’s some expert advice on how to get some sleep. The Globe and Mail. April 1, 2020
An Occupational Therapist’s Guide to Sleep and Sleep Problems edited by Andrew Green and Cary Brown 2015