Social distancing can lead a person toward different sleeping patterns, be it more sleep (because now you have time for that catnap) or less sleep (perhaps anxiety about COVID-19 is keeping you awake?). Nonetheless, it can be a change in your sleep patterns. Despite this, the recommendations for adequate sleep for adults has stayed the same – between seven and nine hours per night – and it is important to maintain this, no matter the circumstances.
Sleep and our circadian system, our internal body clock, are essential for regulating mood, hunger, our cognitive and physical functioning, and recovery from illness or injury. The latter is most important now, with the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the National Sleep Foundation:
- Sleep empowers an effective immune system. Solid nightly rest strengths our body’s defenses, and studies have even found that lack of sleep can make some vaccines less effective.
- Sleep heightens brain function. Our mind works better when we get good sleep, contributing to complex thinking, learning, memory, and decision-making. For adults and children adapting to work and school at home, good sleep can help them stay sharp.
- Sleep enhances mood. Lack of sleep can make a person irritable, drag down their energy level, and cause or worsen feelings of depression.
- Sleep improves mental health. Besides depression, studies have found that a lack of sleep is linked with mental health conditions, like anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
To help maintain this prescribed amount of slumber, it is important to set a routine. This can include:
- Set a wake-up time. Set your alarm, say goodbye to the snooze button, and wake up a a fixed time every day.
- Set a wind down time. It is important to set a time to relax and get ready for bed. This can involve things like light reading, stretching, and meditating along with preparations for bed like putting on pajamas and brushing your teeth.
- Set a bedtime. Pick a consistent time to turn out the lights and try to fall asleep.
To maintain quality sleep, Jutta Schmidt, RRT, RPSGT, manager of Trinity Health’s Sleep Center, suggests the following:
- Abstain from exercise a few hours before bed.
- Keep your room around 65 degrees.
- Sleep in a comfortable bed.
- Don’t eat a big meal before bed.