“Sleep that soothes away all our worries. Sleep that puts each day to rest. Sleep that relieves the weary laborer and heals hurt minds. Sleep, the main course in life’s feast, and the most nourishing.”
― William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Thoughts race. Sleep eludes. Again.
Even in normal times, approximately 30% to 35% of the population experiences acute, or short-term, insomnia. Even before the pandemic, the National Health Institution found that sleep deficiency was a common public health problem. While sleep deprivation means that you did not get enough sleep, sleep deficiency means you have experienced one or more:
- Did not get enough sleep
- Sleep at the wrong time of day (out of sync with your body’s clock)
- Don’t sleep well or get all of the different types of sleep that you need: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep (which has three different stages)
- Have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia
Sleep is essential for survival. Amnesty International lists sleep deprivation as a form of torture. Social distancing and isolation, school closures, quarantines, working-from-home with the family at home, conflicting media reports, job losses and other challenges created by the pandemic are causing sleep deficiency for people who previously had no sleeping problems.
Sleep deprivation is known to negatively impact blood pressure, heart rate, cognition, and more. In fact, research has found that the shorter the sleep one has, the shorter one’s life will be. Sleep offers wide-ranging benefits for physical and mental health.
Why Consistent Quality Sleep Is Important During a Pandemic
Sleep strengthens your immune system.
Sleep is one of your body’s defenses against infectious disease. During sleep, your body produces proteins that fight inflammation and infection.
Researchers have found that, while a lack of sleep can increase the odds of getting sick, consistent sleep helps your body to fight off disease and supports your overall health. Between seven to nine hours of sleep every night is recommended for optimal health.
Lack of sleep impairs your cognitive ability.
Research shows that sleep deprivation leads to poorer short-term memory, attention, and processing speed. During a time when complex information needs to be understood, mental acuity is imperative. Mental agility is required to address the challenges of working and attending school remotely. Good sleep helps to keep us mentally sharp.
Sleep improves your mood and mental health
Daily quality of sleep directly impacts your mood. Someone who is sleep deprived is more likely to be sad, irritable, frustrated, stressed out, fatigued, and/or similar emotions. Research at the University of California Berkeley found that without adequate sleep, parts of the brain that are related to anxiety tend to become more agitated.
Improving Sleep Through Sleep Hygiene
What is sleep hygiene? According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness. While there is not a single, best practice sleep hygiene for everyone, there are a number of daily habits that have proven to help most. Experiment with the following to find what helps you drift off each night.
Sleep Schedule: Go to bed and wake up at consistent times, even during vacations or on weekends.
Get out in the daylight: Daylight affects your circadian rhythm.Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.
Be active during the day: Exercise can help reduce stress which can improve your odds of having a good night’s rest. Avoid strenuous exercise close to bedtime. Stretching, yoga or an evening walk around the neighborhood are good activities to do closer to bedtime.
Avoid caffeine, too much food, and alcohol near bedtime: While alcohol can help you fall asleep, it can disturb your sleep cycles.
Take a nap: A short nap in the middle of the afternoon can improve your mood and cognition. Avoid napping in the evening so as to not interfere with your night’s sleep.
Create an evening routine: Design a ritual which works for you. It could include turning off devices an hour before bed, a warm bath, mediation, journaling, yoga, even washing your face and brushing your teeth. A routine creates an association in your mind that now is the time for sleep.
Turn your bedroom into a sleep haven: Address the issues of light, sound, temperature, even your mattress, which could be disturbing your sleep. A small change such as blackout curtains or a white sound machine could make a marked improvement.
Find ways to still your mind and relax. Find what helps you to still your mind and relax such as soothing music, mediation, and deep breathing.
In addition to sleep hygiene, there are supplements which can help your body copy with the additional stress you are experiencing, possible adrenal fatigue, or which can help you relax naturally. Call our office at Calmglow to schedule an appointment to discuss what could help you now.
To your health.
Dianne Hinton NP, PA, IFM-C