How to Improve Sleep During Times of Stress and Isolation from the Coronavirus

Man wearing coronavirus facemask on escalotor

Good sleep is an essential segment of general health and wellbeing.

But it is even more critical when you are experiencing an ongoing stressor, such as the novel COVID-19 virus.

Poor sleep can negatively impact not only the quality of our lives, but it can also profoundly affect our immunity levels and make us more susceptible to illnesses.

For many of us, our lives have been turned upside down during the current Coronavirus pandemic that is currently gripping our world.

Many of us are facing unprecedented fear and anxiety about our health, careers, finances and so on. Many of the things we took for granted in our daily lives have been uprooted overnight.

These types of concerns can easily lead to insomnia and poor sleep.

As always, healthy sleep hygiene principles should be considered. But, during extreme stress that involves communities outside of your home, there are a few extra things to consider to help prevent sleep problems.

We’ve gathered a few helpful tips that can help improve your sleep during these extremely stressful times, especially for those isolated at home:

1. Limit your access to news stories – this is a MUST do!

It’s one thing to stay current on the pandemic, but obsessing about watching it all day will not help reduce your stress and anxiety, it will only increase it.

Pick a time far from bedtime to tune in, get updated, then turn the news off.

It’s understandable why you want to watch the constant news streams 24/7, but for your mental wellbeing, please limit your exposure.

2. Try to maintain a schedule that mimics your regular routine before the pandemic

Creating a schedule that includes work, play, family time, healthy eating and exercise can help prevent these fight or flight feelings from overwhelming you and wreaking havoc.

For Workdays

If you typically work part-time away from home and now unable to work, try to do some work and stay productive during your “workday hours.”  It’s vital to your emotional and physical wellbeing to remain productive during your “work time.”

This may include learning information in your industry, home projects, spending time with your family that you are quarantined with, learning a new skill, or even house decluttering.

Try to accomplish something practical or useful daily.

For After Work hours

Find something enjoyable to do.

Maybe watch a movie, take a walk, work on a project you have been putting off, or play games with other family members.

3. Eat healthy and exercise

A structured week can help prevent food grazing and overeating from boredom or stress. 

With the extra time on your hands, work on learning how to prepare healthy meals and try new recipes – you never know, you just might find that inner chef hiding inside of you!

You might find this article I wrote about weight management helpful, Stop Dieting and Shift to “Normal” Eating.

With many gyms being closed, consider home workouts. YouTube can provide you with a ton of ideas with limited or no equipment exercise routines.

There are many everyday home items that you can use to help you with your work out. Using canned goods or lifting gallons of water can help you break a sweat.

Walking outside daily in bright light can help improve Vitamin D levels as well as boost our moods. Make sure to keep social distancing in mind during your walk.

Miss walking with a friend?

Consider chatting with your non-family walking partner with the help of your phone earbuds while taking a stroll. Always keep safety in mind and be aware of your surroundings.

Time to explore yoga?

Yoga and deep breathing can be beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety that can lead to poor sleep. Again, YouTube offers tons of videos on how to strike a yoga pose or learn how to deep breathe effectively.

4. Avoid isolation

I get it, your mind and the news are screaming it’s time to stay home and hunker down, but isolating yourself away from family can have a long term effect on your mental wellbeing.

Isolation can lead to negative thoughts and loneliness.  Sharing your worries and expressing to others can help you sort out your feelings.

Consider video or audio calls to close friends. This is also a great time to reconnect with those you have not been in touch with lately.

Consider having a virtual family reunion or water cooler chat!

5. Engage in positive thoughts, and even laughter if possible

This may be a great time to start a gratitude journal or explore meditation practices. For many, engaging in prayer or other spiritual practice can decrease anxiety levels.

Don’t let fear and anxiety take over all of your thoughts. Be proactive and explore ways that can help ease your mind and create peace.

It can be hard during this unprecedented time to find calm, but it can be found.

Here is a simple grounding exercise to help you when you find yourself fearful and full of the what if’s, find these things:

5 – things you can SEE around you
4 – things you can TOUCH around you
3 – things you can HEAR around you
2 – things you can SMELL around you
1 – thing you can TASTE

If you usually watch television in the evening, consider adding some comedy themed shows to the mix. Remember to limit screen time at least an hour before bedtime.

Another suggestion would be to download a meditation app on your phone. There are so many apps out there to help you find your center. Here are some of my favorite meditation apps.

6. Bump up your bedtime routine

One of the main pillars of healthy sleep hygiene is to have a consistent bedtime routine that supports good sleep.

This may be time to explore adding extra steps to your nighttime routine, here are some suggestions to try to help you slumber:

  • Consider exploring aromatherapy
  • Get back to reading a book
  • Taking a warm bath
  • Petting your cat/dog
  • Drinking a non-caffeinated herbal tea

Remember: Stay away from the news close to bedtime! 

Make sure to check out our blog article that discusses even more sleep hygiene ideas – 14 Sleep Hygiene Tips to Improve Your Sleep

There is no doubt that our world is currently upside down and at times seems to be spinning out of control, but we will come out of this, the world will start to rotate in a familiar pattern again.

If we can each take this time at home, even if for 5 minutes to reflect and find a way to calm our fears, we can emerge from this global pandemic with more resolve than ever before.

Stay well my friends!

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Lydia Sosenko, D.D.S.

Lydia Sosenko, D.D.S.

Dr. Lydia Sosenko, author of MySleepDevice.com, is a general dentist and Diplomate of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. Dr. Sosenko has worked closely with the dental and medical communities providing oral appliance therapy for snoring and apnea patients since 1996. She remains passionate in helping build awareness of the dangers of snoring and apnea and the importance of treatments, including oral appliance therapy.

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