Due to the pandemic, people are stressed, which is leading to sleep problems. For many people, getting a good night’s sleep is difficult at the best of times, but during these tumultuous times, it can be even more difficult.
Sleep is essential for good health including boosting immune functions and helping the body deal with stress. This means that during this time, in particular, it is more important than ever to get a good night’s sleep.
It is recommended that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Some people may find they function well with seven hours, while others may need those extra hours to feel alive in the morning. No matter what makes you feel well-rested, it is important to also keep the times that you are asleep consistent.
The circadian system (internal body clock) is essential for regulating mood, hunger, immune system, and cognitive and physical functioning. Shifting times you fall asleep or wake up from day to day may affect all of these functions. For example, studies have shown that going to bed more than an hour and a half later or earlier than your usual time can lead to an increased risk of depression and anxiety. If the circadian system is out of order long term, research shows that consequences can include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
How the Body Fights Infection
During sleep, the immune system releases proteins called cytokines. These are what the body uses to fight infections and inflammation and helps the body respond to stress. However, when we don’t get enough sleep, or our sleep pattern is disrupted, our bodies produce fewer of these important cytokines. While it is too early to have any studies done on the relationship of sleep and the coronavirus, researchers do believe they will see a similar pattern of cytokines fighting the virus.
To ensure you are getting enough sleep during these stressful times, plan on going to bed about eight to nine hours before your usual wake-up time. Try sticking to a consistent wake-up time, no matter how long you slept the night before. This will help to improve your sleep quality and quantity on subsequent nights.
Creating a sleep routine can also help if you are suffering from insomnia or stress-related sleep disorders. Try taking a warm bath or shower before bedtime, turn off screens or put phones on airplane mode an hour before bed, and wind down with a book, stretching exercises, or listen to calming music. These simple activities can help to slow your mind down and get ready for sleep.
Exercising daily can also help towards a healthy sleep pattern. Try to limit all caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes a few hours leading up to bedtime, and incorporate relaxation into your daily life. During this time of uncertainty, you may experience many nights of restlessness. Just take one day at a time and make sleep a priority to help boost your immune system.