Help for Sleep Problems during COVID-19

Posted by on Apr 24, 2020 in A COVID-19 World, Blog From The Experts | 0 comments

Are You Missing Out on Sleep Right Now?

Written By: June Phelps, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

June Phelps, Clinical Psychologist at Avenues of Counseling

Many of you may have had no problems getting to sleep and staying asleep before COVID-19, but the 24-hour news updates, concerns about layoffs and just general uncertainty about the future might be keeping you up at night.

Whether this is a new experience for you, or something you’ve often struggled with,below are some suggestions that could help you to fall and stay asleep during this challenging time.

  • Try to maintain a consistent rhythm in terms of your sleep/wake cycle. Go to bed the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Base the time you go to bed and the time you wake up on the typical number of hours you need to feel rested. However, no matter how much you sleep during the night make sure you get up at the designated hour the following morning. Do not make up for a lack of sleep at night by taking long naps during the day. Napping during the day robs you of sleep drive at night.
  • Your bed should be reserved for sleep and sex. Your bed is an excellent cue for sleep, if and only if, you are not doing everything else on your bed. The more things you do on your bed (other than sleep or have sex) the weaker your bed becomes as a cue for sleep. If you are in your bed for more than 20 minutes and can’t sleep then you should get out of bed and do something boring. Do not engage in a stimulating or social activity. Once you start to feel sleepy get back into bed and do a relaxation practice. If you still cannot sleep after another 20 minutes get out of bed again.

Woman in bed unable to sleep

  • Reduce how much you read about and gather information about COVID-19 prior to bed and generally during the day. Be informed and rely on good sources of information (e.g., CDC) but do not spend hours over-investigating.
  • Exercise during the day or early evening but not right before bed.
  • Spend time outside in nature during the day.
  • Do not have a heavy meal before bed – digesting a heavy meal can keep you up. However, if you wake up hungry eat an apple or a bowl of cereal to help you fall back asleep.
  • Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is on the cool yet comfortable side.
  • A white noise machine or a fan facing the wall can provide the background noise that helps you fall asleep.
  • Do not spend time looking at computer or phone screens right before bed; the blue light interferes with sleep.
  • Keep you room on the dark side. Use light blocking shades if necessary.
  • Reduce caffeine intake. Some studies suggest that you should not have caffeine past 3:00 in the afternoon if you intend to go to bed by 11:00 pm.
  • Alcohol use interferes with a good night sleep.
  • Have the same pre-bed routine each night (e.g., shower, wash face, brush teeth, get into Pjs). Consistency in this routine signals your brain that it is time to move from an alert state to a sleep state. Engage in relaxation exercise and meditation once you are in bed (e.g., counting your breath)
  • Do not problem solve in bed. Have a special time earlier in the day when you address problems.
  • Catastrophic thoughts about the effects of missing sleep overestimate sleep deprivations effects. Remind yourself at night that generally speaking you will function the next day much better than you think you will.

Hopefully one or more of these tips will help you fall and stay asleep; being rested is one of the most important things you need to maintain your physical and mental health right now!

Read more about Dr. June here.

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