ATLANTA - The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of our lives, including our sleep.
Dr. Mark Pollock with Pulmonary and Sleep Specialists in Decatur, Georgia, says he, too, is not sleeping as well as he normally would.
"People are anxious right now," Dr. Pollock says. "We've got this terrible pandemic going on. I'm worried about my family. I'm worried about my friends. I'm worried about my patients. There is a lot of anxiety."
In a recent survey commissioned by SleepStandards of just over 1,000 adults, 76% of those surveyed said their sleep has been negatively affected by this pandemic.
Asked why they were having a tough time sleeping:
- 48% said they felt anxious
- 26% said they worried about a loved one's safety
- 23% said they felt lonely
Dr. Pollock says the constant stress and uncertainty can also make it difficult to get a good night's rest.
"Whenever we're anxious, that activates the chemicals in our brain," Dr. Pollock says. "Those chemicals are meant to keep us alert, keep us on top of things and prepare us for emergencies."
But, it's hard to turn that alertness off when it's time to go to bed.
"It keeps us more on edge," Pollock says. "It keeps us from falling asleep easily. It may make us have more worrisome dreams. It may wake you up more in the middle of the night."
The best way to reduce your stress, he says, is to find ways to disconnect and relax.
"So, you have to find a way to put aside some of the troubles we're all experiencing," Dr. Pollock says. "Find a way to relax, find a way to say this is going to be okay, and I can separate from what's going on in the world."
For some people, Pollock says, that might involve cutting back on social media or limiting how much news coverage they're watching.
Getting back into a stronger daytime routine can also help improve your ability to sleep at night.
The Sleep Foundation recommends ways to strengthen your daily routine:
- Create a daily schedule, even if you're not going to work or school.
- Each morning, get up and shower and get dressed.
- Eat meals at the same time.
- Block out time to work and exercise.
- Find ways to relax, reduce your stress.
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Dr. Pollock says it can be difficult to get into a routine when you're not going to work or to school or even leaving the house.
"But, if you can focus on the schedule, and keep your schedule like normal, then it does help you fall asleep at the right time," he says.
Getting outside into the sunshine during the day and dimming the lights in the evening can also help.
And, Pollock recommends trying to get out and exercise, which can help you fall asleep.
Some other tips:
- Try to get on a regular sleep schedule of going to be and getting up at the same times.
- Cut back on daytime napping.
- Try not to oversleep, which can make you feel groggy.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, especially later in the day.
- Create a nightly wind-down routine.
- Turn off your screens an hour before you go to bed.
Dr. Pollock recommends listening to soft music, thinking and just relaxing.
"Do some stretching exercises," he says. "Do some breathing exercises. Get away from your day-to-day."
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