Has your quality of sleep improved or worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic began?
Some people’s sleep may have improved since working-from-home or online school gives them extra time in the morning. Others may experience a lower quality of sleep due to widespread COVID-19 related worries, for example, financial stress, fear of infection or social isolation.
Researchers found that 35.7% of the general public have developed sleep problems since the beginning of the pandemic. Likewise, 74.8% of COVID-19 patients have reported the same (Jahrami et al., 2020).
Stress and low quality of sleep work hand in hand to create a downward spiral. Stress makes it difficult to sleep, and poor sleep reduces our resiliency to mental and physical stress, making us more vulnerable to the negative effects of stress.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid this toxic cycle:
- Follow a regular sleep routine. It is important to resist the temptation to stay up late at night and sleep in during the morning just because you’re working from home or taking online school. Creating and following a regular sleep schedule (waking up/going to bed at the same time every day) is key in maintaining a good quality of sleep.
- Limit alcohol consumption. 18% of Canadians reported their alcohol consumption increasing since the beginning of the pandemic due to lack of schedule, stress and boredom (Canadian Centre of Substance Use and Addiction, 2020). While alcohol might help people fall asleep quicker, it will decrease overall sleep quality as well as creating the risk of alcohol addiction.
- Limit news consumption. In the past year, news about COVID-19 has flooded the internet, TV and newspapers. Unfortunately, depending on the source, this news may not be 100% reliable. While it is essential to stay updated with accurate information on COVID-19, this information overload can raise stress levels as well as negatively affect our sleep quality. It may be wise to intentionally take some breaks from checking the news, SNS or even talking about COVID-19, especially at night.
- Exercise. The pandemic and resulting safety measures have made it challenging to exercise due to limited accessibility to gyms, fitness classes or sports activities. Still, it is worth exploring other safe ways of getting the necessary exercise that our bodies require in order to improve the quality of sleep.
- Monitor screen time. Excessive screen time was already a significant problem for our sleep, and, unfortunately, the pandemic made it much worse. With working-from-home or online school, it is easy to spend the day using a cell phone or watching TV, even after entering your bed. If being on a device interferes with your sleep, you might want to set a rule for yourself to have some no screen time from 30 min - 2 hours before bed.
- Save your bed for sleep. While it is tempting to work or study on your bed while working-from-home or online schooling, saving your bed for sleep can help your brain associate this space with sleep. Doing so can help you fall asleep faster at night as your brain will unconsciously prepare you for rest as soon as you approach your bed.
Jahrami, H., BaHammam, A. S., Bragazzi, N. L., Saif, Z., Faris, M., & Vitiello, M. V. (2020). Sleep problems during COVID-19 pandemic by population: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.8930
Canadian Centre of Substance Use and Addiction (2020). COVID-19 and Increased Alcohol Consumption: Nanos Poll Summary Report, https://www.ccsa.ca/covid-19-and-increased-alcohol-consumption-nanos-poll-summary-report
About the author of the article:
Naoto Suzuki, MC, Registered Psychologist
Naoto is a registered psychologist in Alberta who currently works for the Airdrie Counselling Centre. If you would like to see Naoto’s profile or book an appointment with him, please click on the link below.