• Cassandra Carlopio

How to get sleep during these uncertain COVID times

Are you noticing its more difficult to fall asleep since this time of COVID 19 hit?

Do you have difficulty falling back asleep if you wake up during the night?

If so, you are not alone. There are many perfectly good reasons why shut eye is more illusive right now.  And while many people struggled with getting quality sleep before the pandemic of coronavirus hit, this time of heightened uncertainty has brought with it a new wave of difficulty sleeping for people.

Stress, Anxiety & Sleep

As many of you know, stress and poor sleep go hand-in-hand. The research is clear on this bidirectional relationship and Dr Matthew Walker outlines it clearly in his important book Why We Sleep "The two most common triggers of chronic insomnia are psychological: 1) emotional concerns, or worry, and 2) emotional distress, or anxiety."

The two most common triggers of chronic insomnia are psychological: 1) emotional concerns, or worry, and 2) emotional distress, or anxiety.

So it makes sense why more of us are having difficulty getting quality sleep at night. These times are bringing a heightened sense of anxiety, stress and uncertainty, which are contributing to poor sleep.

In addition to the anxiety and stress that is present during these times, there is also a range of things that are coming from this time of COVID 19 that further disrupt sleep.  

  • Disruption of daily life and routine

  • Isolation

  • Increased screen time

  • Worry about the health of self and others

Getting to Sleep

So what can we do about it?

While sleep issues are multifaceted and often require a thorough assessment through a sleep clinic (I can't recommend The Breathe Institute highly enough for this), here are some things that you can incorporate into your routine this evening that will help counterbalance the added stress from the COVID pandemic.

Create the optimal sleep environment for yourself and your family…cool, dark and quiet.  There’s a lot of great information out there already on creating the ultimate sleep environment, however it’s worth mentioning that temperature has a big effect on our ability to fall asleep and the ideal room temperature is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius).  If the bedroom has a lot of light, try using an eye mask to shut out excess light.  And if there is noise that can’t be limited, try Mack’s silicon ear plugs (no affiliation to me) they simply work so well at blocking noise you might miss your alarm in the morning. 

Create a routine and schedule for sleep and wake. It’s potentially tempting to sleep in while there is a disrupted schedule, as many people are working from home and parents are homeschooling their children.  However, the body and the circadian rhythm (biological 24 hour system involved with sleep) crave regularity and consistency.  So as much as possible, keep sleep and wake times consistent; even across weekends.

Also, give yourself a “wind-down” window before bedtime.  Just like it takes time too cool down after 30 minutes of vigorous cardio exercise, give yourself a chance to wind down before bed.  Lower the lights, turn down the music, don’t look at screens, and put your to-do list away. 

Limit caffeine, particularly in the afternoon.  Caffeine has a half-life of 5-7 hours for most people, meaning that it takes that long for half of the caffeine to work its way through the system.  Implement a caffeine curfew for yourself, so you have had your last cup of java by 11am or 12pm, giving yourself a chance to metabolize as much of the caffeine before bedtime as possible.  For more on caffeine, watch a video I posted recently on IGTV.

Use guided meditation for sleep to help combat “bedtime thoughts” and allow your body to reach a relaxed state.  In times of increased stress and uncertainty, two things that can disrupt sleep happen. One, when you close your eyes at bedtime, suddenly “bedtime thoughts” and worries have a longer list of things to think about.

Second, the body is in a stressed state - the "fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system state, where the primary goal is to keep us safe and alive by being attentive (alert) to our surroundings.  To fall asleep, the body ideally is in a relaxed state, and be able to relax its “guard”.  Guided meditation for sleep helps by giving your attention something to focus on, other than the worry list, such as the breath or sensation.

Guided meditation for sleep helps by giving your attention something to focus on, other than the worry list, such as the breath or sensation.  

Moreover, meditation can help shift the body from the stress state to a calm state, thereby creating the conditions in which your body can ease into sleep.

There are many options for guided meditations for sleep...

Apps: Go In - Calm Down & Sleep

Aura & Insight Timer

Spotify and YouTube.

May you sleep well.

Cassandra is the founder of Go In Meditations, a mindfulness and sleep expert, collaborative provider at The Breathe Institute, and thousands of people fall asleep to her meditations each night.

She also offers individual and corporate sessions, using mindfulness and meditation to improve performance.

Go In meditations- guided meditation app with a range of meditations for sleep and calm, as well as breathing exercises and more exploratory meditations

Spotify for guided meditations for sleep

Youtube for a range of guided meditations for sleep and calm and presence.

Insight Timer & Aura - meditation and mindfulness apps

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