BY JON O’CONNELL
The unknowns of COVID-19 keep Ann Marie Lewis up at night, too.
“There’s nights I can’t sleep,” the clinical psychologist said. “But usually mine’s stress-induced.”
For a host of reasons, the pandemic has disrupted daily life, including the parts we’re not usually conscious for, like the middle of the night.
Some early research suggests that, especially among health workers, insomnia runs rampant. A study on more than 1,500 frontline medical workers in China found one-third of them experienced symptoms of insomnia.
“Typically, stress-related insomnia is transient and persists for only a few days,” Dr. Bin Zhang, a professor at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, said in a news release. He’s a co-author of the paper, which was published earlier this month in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.
“But if the COVID-19 outbreak continues, the insomnia may gradually become chronic insomnia in the clinical setting,” he said.
You don’t have to be on the front line to feel it.
Anyone whose life has been discombobulated for any number of reasons — financial stress, frightening daily headlines or even just staying home all day — might watch hour after restless hour tick by.
The National Sleep Foundation offers a tool box bursting with ideas for anyone struggling to catch the recommended number of Z’s.
Lewis has her own repertoire for reluctant night owls.
“Breathing is the No. 1 thing to do for relaxation because it’s an automatic signal to the brain to relax,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know that.”
Some more personalized tools for sleep include white noise, soft music, meditation or light stretching before bed.
Smartphone apps for all of those activities, including Calm and Headspace, offer guided meditation lessons and gentle ambient sounds and stories to lull you off to sleep.
Tips from the National Sleep Foundation on beating insomnia
Follow a schedule: Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day. At bedtime, stick to a routine like brushing your teeth and putting on pajamas. That signals to your body that it’s time for sleep. Turn off the lights, the TV and the cellphone.
Natural light: Sunlight helps our bodies regulate sleep. Getting outside, even on cloudy days, helps that process. Open window blinds during the day. An hour before bedtime, shut off electronic devices, which cast sleep-disrupting blue light. Some devices have settings that filter out blue light.
Practice relaxation: Use deep, slow breathing to get calm before bed. Yoga and meditation help. Calming music can help, too. News about the pandemic can raise anxiety levels, so turn down the noise. This might be tricky, given the constant barrage of information. Try setting aside time every day to get caught up. Avoid endless scrolling through social media. Stay connected with family and friends and schedule regular video or telephone calls.
Keep work out of it: Working from home shouldn’t be working from bed, the Sleep Foundation says. It might be tempting to snuggle under the covers at the start of the work day, but resist the urge. Reserve the bed for sleep and sex. Make your bed an inviting place for sleep by changing the sheets to make it feel clean and fresh.
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