04 Jun Lockdown Life & Sleep Changes
Coronavirus got your sleep schedule all messed up? You’re not alone. Living through a pandemic is anxious making, whether it’s overt anxiety or just a background hum of stress. Work schedules, finances, parenting, health concerns, commuting, grocery shopping, socializing, planning for future events… Every aspect of life has been impacted, each of which can have flow on effects to how you’re sleeping.
Stress and anxiety, coupled with changes in lots of areas of life, can contribute to staying up later, taking longer to fall asleep, restless sleep, less total sleep, and more attempts at weekend “catch up” sleep, meaning our sleep schedules will become more variable than normal. These sleep disruptions can, in turn, go on to impact our ability to cope with stress and anxiety, forming a negative feedback loop between poor sleep and increased anxiety1.
If adapting to lockdown life and Coronavirus stress has meant that you’ve been more sleep deprived than normal, your dreams might be more frequent and intense than before too. Dreams occur during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, a sleep stage which involves rapid eye movements, fast theta brain waves, and total body paralysis2. When we’re sleep deprived and finally fall asleep, we see greater activity in the brain during REM sleep, including more vivid and more frequent dreams3. This phenomenon is called “REM rebound” and can often leave you waking up feeling weird and not totally refreshed.
So, how to support your sleep during Coronavirus? Here’s a few quick tips to help get your sleep hygiene back on track:
- Limit media & social media use – try switching off all electronics (yes, all!) at least 30 minutes prior to bed. The content can hype you up, plus the exposure from the screen’s blue light can have a negative impact on your circadian rhythm (your body clock), disrupting sleep further4.
- Set up a bedtime routine – hot shower, cuppa (decaf) tea, dim the lights in the house, read a few chapters of a book, meditate, unwind… Start to prime your body and your mind for sleep
- Spend time with family prior to bed – research shows that time spent with family and loved ones, engaging in activities (without screens) such as sharing stories or playing board games, is sleep protective5.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule – as best as you can, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, regardless of day of the week
- The bed is for sleep – avoid using your bed to do work, eat breakfast, watch Netflix… The more your mind can associate bed = sleep and not bed = activity, the better for your sleep
- Monitor your thoughts – anxiety and stress can start to bang on the door pretty loudly just as you’re getting ready for bed. Try a few mindfulness apps with specific sleep-related content to help your brain start to unwind, like Headspace or Smiling Mind
If you’re finding sleep to be especially challenging during this time, that is completely normal. But if would like some professional support, Dr. Elizabeth is a sleep health specialist having completed her Ph.D. focusing on interventions that target sleep and its impact on mood and physical health. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1300 784 184 to book in a session today.
1 Jansson-Fröjmark, M., & Lindblom, K. (2008). A bidirectional relationship between anxiety and depression, and insomnia? A prospective study in the general population. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64(4), 443-449.
2 Samson, D. R., & Nunn, C. L. (2015). Sleep intensity and the evolution of human cognition. Evolutionary Anthropology, 24(6), 225–237.
3 Nielsen, T., Stenstrom, P., Takeuchi, T., Saucier, S., Lara-Carrasco, J., Solomonova, E., & Martel, E. (2005). Partial REM-sleep deprivation increases the dream-like quality of mentation from REM sleep and sleep onset. Sleep, 28(9), 1083-1089.
4 Wood, B., Rea, M. S., Plitnick, B., & Figueiro, M. G. (2013). Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression. Applied Ergonomics, 44(2), 237-240.
5 Harbard, E., Allen, N. B., Ph, D., Trinder, J., Ph, D., Bei, B., … Ph, D. (2016). What’s keeping teenagers up? Prebedtime behaviors and actigraphy-assessed sleep over school and vacation. Journal of Adolescent Health, 58(4), 426 – 432.