I believe that there is something all of us can agree upon; these are abnormal times including uncertainty. When there are changes in the world including the unknown sleep can be affected. I posted most recently on my facebook page that it is difficult for many people to get “normal” sleep right now.
As we continue with restrictions through most of May there is more research on the affects COVID-19 is having on our sleep patterns. Dr. Michael Breus “also known as the sleep doctor” www.thesleepdoctor.com mentions that being at home more can allow us to have more time to rest and sleep but when we change our sleep schedule possibly staying in bed longer it can cause sleep disturbances. General worries and the financial stressors associated with the virus can lead to sleep disruptions. We are hardwired as humans to avoid falling asleep when facing danger and financial hardships fall into that category.
There was a recent CNBC article that brought up another issue that the pandemic could be leading to more vivid dreams and nightmares. This is also a time where people can develop habits that can affect normal sleep patterns. Here are a few highlights from that article.
First the experiences that we have during the day including what we read and hear certainly can have an impact on our dreams. If you spend a couple of hours prior to bed watching the news on COVID-19 it is likely it will come up in your dreams. If you choose to be engaged in a pleasant or neutral activity it also will likely come up in your dreams. So ending your day with reading something positive an enhance sleep.
Second most of our dreaming takes place during “rapid eye movement” or REM sleep. To remember our dreams you need to wake up during the dream or REM stage which is the lightest stage of sleep. So when you remember dreams more vividly is probably because your sleep is more disturbed in general.
So what steps can be taken so that you can sleep sounder and have fewer nightmares.
1. Even though most of us are home more try to stick to the same sleep schedule. If you normally get up at 6:00 to get ready for work but now that you are home don’t need to get up until 7:00 still make the habit of getting up at 6:00. Staying in bed longer can cause you to have difficulty going to bed at night and having sound restful asleep.
2. Avoid increasing the caffeine. It can be tempting when at home to refill the coffee mug but stopping caffeine intake 10 hours prior to planned bedtime allows for a more restful sleep
3. Cutting back or eliminating alcohol. Drinking alcohol can initially make us feel relaxed but metabolizing alcohol is very sleep disruptive.
4. Create or maintain a good bedtime routine. This includes doing something relaxing an hour prior to bed. Stop computer and cell phone use at this time. Possibly read a favorite book, look at a pleasant photo from vacation. This is a opportune time to talk with family and connect.
5. If you enjoy essential oils try a drop of lavender on your pillow at night. Lemon Balm is also relaxing and minimizes anxiety.
6. Take an epsom salt bath 2 hours prior to bed.
7. Keep a gratitude journal by your bedside so that you can write what you have been grateful for that day. There are so many positives in our days and taking time to reflect on this promotes joy and restful sleep.