Insomnia: Why Coronavirus (COVID-19) and confinement can affect our sleep and what to do to get a better night’s sleep.
Saray Caliz and Itxaso Cembrero Psychologists at SINEWS Multilingual Therapy Institute explains to the Madrid Metropolitan How.
Most of us have now been confined in our homes for over 5 weeks. Who would ever have thought that something like this would happen? Well, here we are, living in strange times, full of uncertainty and worry. So, how is this not going to have an impact on our sleep?
Social isolation, drastic change in routines, lack of physical activity, family welfare concerns, stress related to work and economic uncertainty, the continuous bombardment of news about the number of people infected and deceased, worrying that we or our loved ones may get infected … numerous different concerns may haunt us. So yes, of course, this quarantine may alter our normal sleep cycle and hinder its quality and quantity, preventing a restful night’s sleep.
When we talk about insomnia, or the difficulty in falling asleep or getting enough hours of sleep to feel rested, it is important that we understand that there are different types of insomnia. It is essential to distinguish between them, as the strategy that we put into practice may vary from one type to another.
There is a clear difference. Transient acute insomnia, is without a doubt one of the most common types and very likely the one we are experiencing presently due to the stressful situation. It can last for a short period of time, usually less than three months, and is frequently associated with situational factors or life stressors. On the other hand, we have chronic insomnia, where we persistently experience difficulty in falling asleep or maintaining sleep, that lasts for months or even years.
Likewise, it is important to consider the time of night or the moment in the sleep cycle when we have these difficulties. We could be experiencing insomnia onset, which happens when we have difficulty falling asleep, usually taking more than 30 minutes to do so; or we may have sleep-maintenance insomnia, which happens when it is hard to maintain sleep, and several awakenings can occur throughout the night.
These difficulties result in a non-restful sleep. This may account for why we are currently feeling tired and have overall discomfort, feel more irritable, more distressed, with mood swings, difficulty maintaining our attention on ordinary daily tasks, difficulty in memorizing and remembering things and difficulty making decisions, among others.
The problems associated with insomnia are varied and can have an impact on different areas of our lives, including both our physical and mental health.
Top 9 Tips For A Better Night’s Sleep
1. Establish routines: It’s important to have regular patterns in our day-to-day, now more than ever before. Try to go to bed and get up every day at more or less the same time and maintain regular meal times and, of course, avoid eating just before going to bed.
2. Go to bed only when you are tired and ready to sleep: Avoid, as much as possible, spending time awake in bed. If you have not been able to fall asleep in about 20 minutes, get up and carry out a seemingly boring activity until you feel the need to go back to bed. Of course, avoid using any type of device that emits light (Kindle, tablet, computer, mobile phones, television) since this activates our brains.
3. Avoid stimulating activities at least 4 to 6 hours before going to bed: Our brain is preparing itself to sleep, so it is essential that if possible, you create a relaxing home environment. Also, we need to do activities that help us to relax and rest. Have dim lights, reduce the use of screens and incorporate a yellow filter on your devices at least 4 to 6 hours before going to sleep.
4. Avoid consuming caffeine, nicotine and/or alcohol during the day: If this is extremely hard for you, it’s important to try not to consume these substances for at least 6 hours before going to bed.
5. Bed is for sleeping: We know that watching a movie, eating or reading in bed can be very appealing, but we must try to avoid such activities in bed. Your body and mind must associate the bed with rest and sleep.
6. Create bedtime rituals: Have a glass of warm milk or herbal tea, take a relaxing bath, do some breathing exercises, practice mindfulness…
7. Don’t check what time it is: Watching the clock while trying to fall asleep will only reinforce negative thoughts concerning sleep and make you nervous about not being able to do so.
8. Goodbye to naps: In order to be as tired as possible at bedtime, it is very important that you do not sleep during the day. The more tired you are, the more likely it will be for you to fall asleep at night and rest.
9. Stay active and exercise (but remember, not right before bedtime): Exercising activates us so it’s best to do it during the morning or early afternoon. It will also tire you, which will make you feel eager to go to bed at night.
Photo Credit: Alexandra Gorn