Does it seem that no matter how much sleep you get, you still feel tired and unmotivated in the morning? The evolving challenges and tragedies of the new coronavirus has created unprecedented upheaval and turmoil in all of our lives—a perfect storm of conditions that can disrupt our sleep. These culprits of sleeplessness are all too familiar: isolation, anxiety about health and jobs, upended schedules, school closures, excessive input of news, and other stressors at home.
“We need our rest now, more than ever, because lack of sleep can weaken our immune systems, making us more vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses,” says Saratoga Hospital’s Executive Director of Behavioral Health Janice Prichett, LCSW-R. “The resulting exhaustion just exacerbates anxiety, stress, and other destructive emotions, which leads to further sleeplessness and even greater sleep problems.”
She adds that, unfortunately, the chronic stress we are all undergoing will not be disappearing anytime soon. Unless we address it, our ability to sleep will continue to diminish into deeper stress-related fatigue. You may already be experiencing difficulty with memory and focus, chronic headaches, and constant weariness.
The good news is that there are proven strategies to improve your ability to get a good night’s sleep:
- Make sleep a habit. Set a regular bedtime and a regular wake time, with seven to eight hours of scheduled rest in between. Don’t deviate from the routine, and eventually it’ll become a natural habit.
- Your bedroom is for sleeping. Maintain a sleep-focused bedroom environment.
- Try not to double it as your office, a storeroom, or a place to watch TV or play video games. Those distractions will tempt you to get up in the middle of the night.
- Keep your bedroom cool enough, dark enough, and quiet enough to promote sleep.
- Try using sound machines or calming music to help reduce any outside noise.
- Smell is important, too. Use the laundry detergent, potpourri, essential oil, or other scents that appeal to you most.
- Limit screen time. Yes, it’s true, you have to limit screen time on electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. Try to resist the temptation to keep your phone on your nightstand.
- Practice meditation. Meditating before bed can help relax you, so it is easier to get to sleep.
- Avoid taking naps. Naps can throw off your sleep schedule.
- Try natural supplements if your doctor approves. Some natural supplements can help with sleep, but not if they interfere with other health priorities. Ask your primary care physician for advice.
- Limit your caffeine intake. Enough said.
- Limit alcohol. Alcohol may make you feel sleepy at first, but studies show it can actually interfere with REM sleep. Without REM sleep, you’ll feel as if you haven’t slept at all.
- Exercise. Regular daytime exercise can relieve stress and help you sleep, but don’t do it before bedtime. You’ll never sleep with that heightened post-exercise adrenaline.
The Mayo Clinic offers helpful information on fatigue, including when to see a doctor. If you are a patient of a Saratoga Hospital Medical Group provider who is having trouble sleeping due to anxiousness about COVID-19 or anything else, ask your primary care provider to refer you to our telehealth behavioral health services. You can arrange to speak with one of our caring staff directly about your feelings and concerns. These phone services include screening, assessment, and counseling for anxiety, depression, substance use, and other mental health services.
For medical sleep concerns such as sleep apnea, your doctor can refer you to our sleep medicine services. If you are looking for a primary care provider, please call the Saratoga Hospital Medical Group Patient Concierge at 518-886-5900.
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