Improving Sleep – Especially During COVID-19

Many struggle with sleep issues on a regular basis, and this is a very common complaint during these unprecedented COVID-19 times. Changes in daily routines and schedules have resulted in many sleep-related issues to include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Vivid dreams
  • Changes in sleep-wake schedules
  • Night-time eating
  • Night-time sweating
  • Obsessing and Worrying
  • Increased daytime sleeping and difficulty getting out of bed

Sleep of course is always important but especially so during these times of increased emotional and physical stress. Benefits of sleep include:

  • Time for overall rejuvenation
  • Improved immune system and overall physical functioning
  • Healthier daytime eating
  • Emotion regulation and enhanced mood
  • Sharper brain function to include memory / attention / concentration / focus / thinking / learning and decision-making
  • Adequate energy to make it through the day

There are very specific things you can do to improve sleep:

  • Consistent sleep-wake cycles; program your brain to go to sleep/wake up the same time every day. You can slowly change this on each end at 15-30 minute increments every 2-3 days until the goal is achieved
  • Healthier daytime eating
  • No caffeine after the noon hour
  • No alcohol within 2-4 hours prior to sleep
  • End eating within 2 hours of sleep
  • Slowly wind down at night by getting into bed in a quiet, comfortable environment at least 30 minutes prior to sleep
  • Limit lights and screen time to include phone/tablet/TV/computer minimum of 30 minutes prior to sleep
  • Cool bedroom environment
  • Limit bed to sexual and sleep activities
  • Hot bath prior to bed
  • Limit COVID-19 and negative news, especially within 2 hours of falling asleep
  • Be very mindful of positive/relaxing/grateful thoughts as falling asleep
  • Intend mindfully that you will have a peaceful/relaxing/rejuvenating sleep as you are dozing off
  • Google and listen to visual imagery/meditation/relaxation videos or calming music as you are falling asleep
  • Listen to calming apps
    • Calm
    • Insight Timer
    • Headspace
    • Ten Percent Happier
  • Pray as you are falling asleep and turn over your cares to your higher power
  • Challenge yourself to relax every muscle in your body by mentally scanning your body from head to toe as you are falling asleep
  • Remind yourself of a positive/grateful thought that will be on your mind when you wake up and immediately upon awakening, remind yourself of that thought
  • Get out of bed on time and refrain from laying there, no matter how tempting it may be
  • Immediately begin your daily hygiene and routines
  • Keep consistent times/daily schedules and routines for work, play and eating
  • Set aside time “move your body” daily
  • Refrain from energizing, aerobic activity at least 2-4 hours prior to sleep
  • Limit daytime napping
  • Get fresh air and sunshine daily and as much as possible, within 2 hours of sleep

In conclusion, sleep hygiene is very important on many levels to include physical, emotional and mental health. Please consider some of the above suggestions. If you are still struggling with sleep issues, consider speaking with your primary care physician or reaching out to us at The Behavioral Wellness Group. There is Help! There is Hope!

John A. Glovan, Psy.D.
Director, Health and Wellness Program Co-Founder
The Behavioral Wellness Group