Sleep during the pandemic is a topic that seems to be coming up a lot. While some people are sleeping better since COVID-19 started, many more are struggling with insomnia symptoms. Here are some of the reasons why you might be having a hard time sleeping right now. And with a few small changes, you can improve your sleep.
Your Sleep Schedule Changed
Since the pandemic started and we have been doing more things from home, our sleep schedules have changed. Many people seem to be staying up later and sleeping later. And for some of us the change in patterns can trigger insomnia symptoms.
If you notice that you’re having a more difficult time falling or staying asleep, try to set your wake-up time for the same time every day. This does not have to be early, but it should be consistent. So even if you have trouble sleeping and your bedtime is later than normal, get up at your scheduled wake-up time. You will get less sleep and you may be tired, but you are more likely to have an easier time falling asleep that night. Try not to catch up on sleep and let yourself be tired. Your body will adjust, in time, and will get used to the consistency of a regular schedule.
You’re Doing Other Things in Bed
Now that we’re in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us had to abruptly shift to working from home. You may be working from a small space, trying to avoid kids or other family members. You may have resorted to working in bed. Even if you’re not working in your bed, you may be watching TV, reading or looking at your phone in bed. And doing other activities in bed can increase insomnia symptoms.
You may have heard that it’s not good to do other things in bed, but you may not know why. When we do other activities in bed that aren’t sleeping, our brain associates our bed with not sleeping. This is important, particularly when you have insomnia symptoms. We need to strengthen the bed as a cue for sleep. By only using the bed for sleep, we reinforce the association of our bed with sleeping and it is an important part of insomnia treatment.
You Aren’t Outside Enough
Sunlight helps us to regulate our sleeping patterns. Our eyes detect the light and dark cycle and this sets our circadian rhythm. With the pandemic, many of us are missing out on these cues as we stay inside so much of the time. A lack of morning sunlight can change our sleep patterns and can shift our circadian rhythm out of whack.
If you are struggling with sleep right now, try to get outside in the morning light as much as possible, and reduce exposure to light in the evening. Exercising in the morning is even better because exercise improves sleep drive by helping us to feel sleepy at night. It is possible to be outside and be active in a safe way during this time. And increasing our morning sunlight can help improve insomnia symptoms.
You Are Too Worried About Sleep
You may be reading about how important sleep is right now. There are countless articles out there about how crucial sleep is for your health, especially during the pandemic. Better sleep can help build your immune system, we are told. And you may be trying to get “the recommended amount of sleep.” You may even be tracking your sleep with a FitBit or Apple watch.
All of this is putting pressure on your sleep and this is actually making insomnia symptoms worse. According to Kenneth Lichstein, a sleep researcher for over 30 years, worrying about insomnia can do more harm than getting poor sleep. In other words, how we think about our sleep is directly affecting how we feel. And the fear of not getting enough sleep has a negative effect. The most important thing you can do right now is to relax about your sleep. The less you focus on how much sleep you get or don’t get, the better. Let go of your fear that you won’t be able to function the next day. And don’t read news stories about how essential sleep is right now.
CBT for insomnia
Of course, this is easier said than done for some people and if you are struggling, seek out insomnia treatment with CBT-i. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (or CBT-i for short) can help you to reduce negative thinking around sleep and it will help to set up an optimal sleep schedule for you. CBT-i can be conducted through online therapy. Learn more about our insomnia treatment here: https://dcmetrotherapy.com/insomnia-treament/.
We often put off working on sleep, but now is a good time to start.