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How to get to sleep during COVID-19

Spending your days at home can make it more difficult to get to sleep at night


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in news


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Many people are finding it difficult to get to sleep during the COVID-19 pandemic. Spending all your days at home can make it harder to settle into sleep at night, and if you are feeling worried about the COVID-19 pandemic, your anxiety could be getting in the way of your sleep.

It's not easy to get a good night's sleep when you're stressed or anxious, but there are things you can do to try and develop a bedtime routine. 

What to do if you are having sleep problems during COVID-19

If you're having a hard time getting to sleep at night and want to change some of your habits, here are 10 things you can try:

1. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it

Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day will do wonders for your sleep. Even if you are not currently working, it is important to get up at a reasonable hour in the morning and not to spend too much of the day in bed. Lying in into the afternoon can create a cycle where you are then unable to sleep until late into the night. Picking a time to get up and sticking to it can help you then to get a better sleep during the night.

2. Create a bedtime ritual

Every night before going to bed, do something that relaxes you. Try to avoid checking messages or spending too much time on your phone because this can distract you and keep your mind active. Practising mindfulness is one way to manage your thoughts during the pandemic and help you to get to sleep at night. 

3. Manage your stress

This can be very difficult to overcome, especially if you are experiencing worry or anxiety due to the pandemic, but there are things you can do to help. Talking about how you're feeling is one way to help yourself feel better, and practising self care can help to relieve stress.  Some find it helpful to keep a notebook beside their bed and jot down any worries or thoughts that are stressing them out and keeping them from sleeping. 

4. Get some exercise

Getting exercise during the day and really help to improve your sleep. While it's not possible to visit a gym at the moment, there are plenty of exercises you can do at home.  However, try not to exercise up to two hours before bed, because this can have the opposite effect.

5. Only use your bed for sleeping and sex

If you're working or doing school or college work from home, try to avoid working from your bed if this is possible. Experts have said that your bed should only be for sleeping and sex - using it for other things, like working, signifies to your brain that this is a space to work in, rather than to sleep in. If you're having trouble sleeping at night, it's also a good idea to get up and sit or lie down somewhere else for a while, instead of lying there awake for hours.

6. Make your bedroom as quiet and dark as possible

In the evening time, try to keep the lights low and avoid exposing yourself to harsh light. Avoid looking at your phone or computer for at least an hour before bed and keep your actual bedroom as dark as possible.

7. Manage your naps

You may find yourself napping more during the pandemic as you have less to fill your time during the day. There is nothing wrong with taking a nap but try to have them earlier in the afternoon and limit them to around 20 minutes. Remember though, if you have insomnia or other more serious sleep issues, it's not recommended that you nap during the day. Check out our article on napping here.

8. Avoid eating too late

Although it might be harder to eat at your normal meal times during the pandemic, eating too late at night can keep you up. Try to have your meals earlier in the evening, rather than later.

9. Limit alcohol and smoking before bed

Alcohol can definitely make you sleepy, but it can also interfere with sleep, so that you never get proper deep sleep. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol for a few hours before bed. For more information and what else can be bad for your sleep, check out this article.

10. Be careful with caffeine

Caffeine keeps you awake and alert, and stays in the body for up to eight hours, so if you have issues sleeping, you should have your last cup of tea or coffee by 2pm at the latest. Try switching to herbal decaf teas later in the evening. 

Relaxation techniques to help you sleep during the pandemic 

If you find yourself lying in bed at night unable to sleep, there are relaxation techniques you can practice to help you fall asleep quicker.

Try this relaxation technique to help soothe you:

  • Imagine you’re in a very peaceful and relaxing setting
  • Focus on your breathing
  • Tense your muscles as you inhale and relax as you exhale
  • Start with your toes: inhale – tense your feet – hold the tension and exhale slowly – relaxing the feet as you exhale
  • Inhale – tense the feet and lower legs – hold the tension for five seconds – exhaling slowly – relaxing the lower legs and calves as you exhale slowly
  • Continue until you’ve tensed and relaxed the whole body
  • Keep focused and try not to engage in any other thinking while you do the relaxation exercise

If no matter how hard you try to create a sleeping pattern nothing works, you may want to speak to your doctor about it. Read our article on how to talk to your doctor about sleep to learn more about the options available to you.

Feeling overwhelmed or anxious around the current pandemic?

This situation is completely new to everyone involved and it is normal to feel worried or anxious about what is going on. Following the Government’s instructions on how to stay safe and help slow the spread of the virus, can help to make you feel more in control of your current situation.

If you feel overwhelmed by the current situation and need someone to talk to, our anonymous, 24 hour text line is always open. You're worth talking about and we're here to listen and support you.

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Published March 27th2020
Last updated Sep­tem­ber 18th2020
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.
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