Living a Zen life in a world fighting the coronavirus pandemic with fear, doubt and negativity is not easy. Each morning is flooded with unpleasant news of millions being infected, thousands fighting for life and the surviving ones struggling for a living. While the mornings bring bad news…the nights have their share of discomfort for more than half the population across the globe–insomnia, sleep disorders and sleepless nights…all because of the anxiety and stress born out of the pandemic.
How Does Anxiety Affect Sleep?
Since the advent of the novel coronavirus, everything has changed– eating habits, meeting people, working and learning; everything has undergone a sea change. The virus has not just changed our physical lives but also the way we think, believe and apprehend things. While we have been fighting stress in our daily lives for some time now, the pandemic has given way to a new form of pathological anxiety that stems from the unknown: a fear that threatens us though not obvious or immediate. All this growing anxiety, stress and panic is affecting our sleep in more than one way…with rising cases of insomnia, sleep disorders and sleep disturbances.
You may be spending sleepless nights in bed, tossing and turning with crazy dreams…nightmares of being infected or losing your loved ones to this deadly disease. Dealing with financial losses, losing a job or keeping oneself afloat in the emerging economic slowdown could be other fears contributing to disturbed sleep.
Lack of sleep can weaken your immunity and slow down your general recovery speed should you become sick. But calling the doctor and ending up with a prescription full of medications may be the last thing you want to do. So, here are some recommendations to help you fight insomnia the natural way: through some healthy lifestyle changes.
10 Lifestyle Changes to Help You Fight Insomnia
- Practice a relaxation technique: To give your anxious mind-body some rest, try a relaxation technique like meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation. While meditation calms the body and mind, muscle relaxation allows you to feel the relaxation and calmness run down your muscles from head to toe.
- Try physical activity: Exercise, jogging, aerobics, Pilates or any other form of physical activity that gears up your muscles, tissues and joints is likely to benefit you in terms of sleep. Any form of physical activity raises your body temperature– later, when your body cools down it triggers a sense of tiredness and relaxation that induces sleep. Adopting a regular exercise schedule early in the morning or during the afternoon is likely to put your sleep-wake cycle on track and regularize your sleep pattern and duration.
- Limit your news intake: During the pandemic staying informed is important. However, watch the quality and quantity of your news intake. Getting obsessed with news clips about the virus is sure to impact your state of mind. During the day, take short breaks to get updates about how the pandemic is affecting the world.
- Avoid intake of toxic drinks: Alcohol is the biggest deterrent to good sleep. While it may drive you into sleep quickly, it can disturb your sleep schedule and leave you struggling for sleep in the wee hours. Similarly, coffee that helps to keep you awake and alert may trigger insomnia, making it difficult for you to sleep. Caffeine stays in your blood for about 14 hours, so if you have a late-night cup of coffee, it is likely to ruin your night.
- Define your sleep schedule: With anxiety and stress disrupting your sleep, it is important that you find ways to refine your sleep schedule and make the most of it. While doing so keep the following in mind:
- Never snooze the alarm clock to borrow extra sleep.
- If you lose sleep, do not try to compensate by sleeping extra the next day. This disrupts your sleep schedule.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. This tunes your internal body clock.
- Avoid late naps towards the evening, which can seriously hinder good sleep at night.
- Avoid staying up late at night to catch up on a sitcom or a favorite movie.
- Reserve your bedroom for sleeping: A relaxing activity like sleeping requires an environment that’s restful. Even if you’re working at home, never use your bedroom space for this purpose. Create an ambience that is soothing and calming for both your mind and your body. . Painting the walls of your bedroom in soft soothing colors like soft blue or lavender can help. Ensure that your bedroom is quiet, and that no external disturbances can disturb you. Consider using a white noise machine if external noise is an issue.
- Keep electronic gadgets away from your bed: This tip should be on the top of your list. Never try to invite sleep using an iPad, smartphone, tablet, laptop or any other light-emitting gadget. While you may justify it by saying that celebrity gossip or mundane apps help you to drift into sleep, the truth is that it drifts you away from a good sleep.
The light emitted by the electronic gadgets signals to your brain to stay alert and awake, thus your brain is confused by these signals. The stimulation will ultimately wake you in the wee hours, and you may have trouble getting yourself back to sleep. This cycle can then repeat itself, keeping you from getting the restorative rest you need.
- Sleep naturally, without substances: Popping a sleeping pill or asking your doctor to prescribe medicines to induce sleep can seem like an easy remedy to fight sleep challenges, but eventually, these can result in more severe sleep problems. Your body is likely to develop an over-dependence on these medications, forcing you to indulge in them at the cost of your long-term health.
Instead of opting for medications, consider alternatives that help you get to root causes and make lifestyle changes that support your sleep. A Sleep Wellness Coach can help you reduce stress and establish better sleep patterns that last a lifetime.
- Keep your worries out: We all know that ‘Worry Kills’ but worry kills your sleep more than anything else. If your brain is cluttered with the day’s activities, tensions, and stresses, then it is likely to affect your ability to sleep. A brain that is speeding with thoughts cannot rest.
So, leave your worries outside your bedroom: practice meditation or keep a personal diary to pour out your worries. Never go to bed with a loaded brain.
- Prepare for sleep personally: Prepare yourself for a good night of sleep by adopting some personal habits. Have a shower before going to bed. It lowers your body temperature and prepares your mind mentally for sleep. If possible, use a few drops of essential oils like lavender or some natural fragrance that calms and soothes your busy mind and strained muscles.
No doubt the world is not going through the best phase, but remember every dawn brings a new day. Believe in the positivity of each day, the serenity of each night, and the fact that in this moment, you are safe and secure. With these magic words running through your mind and spirit, you can beat the anxiety and stress of the pandemic and ensure that your dreams never lose their sweetness!
About the Author
Kushal Desai is a founder of Sleepation, a blog covering topics from healthy sleep guides, sleep hygiene, independent mattress reviews and much more. Read his latest post on 7 Benefits of Drinking Water Before Bed.