Due to COVID-19, we are dealing with several new realities — social distancing, working from home, and less time spent in person with family and friends. As a result, our anxiety may be high, and we may have trouble falling or staying asleep. Below are a few tips to help support your sleep and better manage stress and anxiety.
Exercise has been found to both lower anxiety and improve sleep. Make time to move your body in the morning or afternoon to help keep your sleep and wake cycle on track. However, try not to exercise right before bed, as it can actually inhibit deep sleep.
Control the light, sound, and temperature of your bedtime to foster a good night’s rest. The darker, quieter, and cooler you keep your bedroom, the greater chance you have of quickly falling asleep and staying asleep. Taking a shower or bath shortly before bed can also help lower your body temperature and help you fall asleep more easily.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant beloved across the entire world. But all good things are best enjoyed in moderation. Drinking too much caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety—or “the jitters”—and consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep cycles. Also be on the lookout for hidden caffeine!
Consuming alcohol close to bedtime can increase your heart rate and keep you awake. If you’re one to have a nightly drink to help fall asleep, know that alcohol may initially help you drift off, but it’s not doing you any favors in the long run. Alcohol prevents you from getting deep, restorative sleep, which leads to feeling unrefreshed and tired when you wake up.
There are many relaxation techniques that can help calm your mind throughout the day and improve sleep. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises are a few, but it can also be as simple as taking a short walk during the day. If you practice techniques for calming your mind during the day, then it will be easier to trigger your relaxation response at night.
Your phone, tablet, and TV emit blue light that keeps your brain awake, so try to limit them an hour before bedtime. Checking email or doing work right before bed can also trigger anxious thoughts and make it difficult to stay calm. Set an alarm to remind you to turn off electronics before bed and try listening to music or reading a book to quiet your mind.
The biggest takeaway here is that anxiety can cause poor sleep and vice versa, poor sleep can worsen feelings of anxiety and stress. It’s important to take care of yourself, especially during this global pandemic. Speak with your doctor if you have worsening sleep or anxiety (or both) and don’t forget to give yourself some grace—we’re all in uncharted territory right now.
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