Are you struggling with sleep? Has it become more difficult to get the sleep you need since we started physical distancing? If so, you are not alone!
So why exactly are we struggling to sleep more during COVID-19? There are two main reasons for our increased trouble sleeping. First, many of us are experiencing higher levels of stress or anxiety. Secondly, our routines have changed.
When we have uncertainty in our lives, our stress can increase. We may be worrying about our businesses, our health or our families. 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 physical 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. To help with resetting, can you set a regular wake up time, even if it is different than your pre-COVID norm? Can you establish set mealtimes, and get outside during the daylight hours? Having some set times during the day can help us re-establish our daily rhythms.
Sarah Good is a RevolutionHER™ Member based out of Ottawa, Ontario. She is the Founder of Sarah Good Occupational Therapy, where she helps people living with chronic pain, women’s health issues, or mood disorders to support them in becoming more active and live their lives more fully. Sarah has put together a free booklet entitled Build Your Day for Better Sleep. You can download a copy at sarahgoodOT.ca/sleep