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COVID-19 and sleep: getting a good night’s rest in a pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has turned life upside-down around the world, and is causing sleepless nights for a variety of reasons. It’s even got its own name – “coronasomnia”.

“Coronasomnia” is basically COVID-19-caused insomnia and it’s being recognised as a problem globally. It’s little wonder that people aren’t sleeping, given the increase in stress they’re experiencing, coupled with disrupted routines and for some, decreased activity.

But as well as COVID-19 disrupting sleep, there’s another interesting link. One study found that the “sleep hormone”, melatonin, might also help to block the virus.

Michelle Miller, a sleep-medicine professor at the University of Warwick in the UK, speaking to The Atlantic, explains that sleep is important for effective immune function, as well as regulating metabolism, including glucose and mechanisms controlling appetite and weight gain. Getting enough sleep optimises people’s metabolism and ensures their bodies are prepared as well as possible if they fall ill. The Atlantic article notes that even flu shots appear to be more effective among people who have slept well in the days preceding getting one, which has bearing on vaccination schedules for COVID-19 as they are rolled out.

The Sleep Foundation says that “Sleep is a critical biological process, and as we juggle the mental, physical, and emotional demands of the pandemic, it’s arguably more important than ever.” The organisation says that sleep not only empowers an effective immune system, but also heightens brain function (which makes for better thinking, learning, memory and decision-making). Plus, it improves mental health.

So, how do we avoid coronasomnia? Here are five tips for getting a good night’s rest during the pandemic:

  1. Establish a routine. The Sleep Foundation notes that it’s easier for your mind and body to get used to a consistent sleep schedule, which is why health experts have long recommended avoiding major variation in your daily sleep times. This means setting a bedtime and wake-up time, as well as trying to eat meals at the same time. Also try to shower and get dressed, even if you’re working from home.
  2. Keep your bed for sleep and sex. Your brain needs to create a link between sleep and your bed. Taking work into the bed, or bingeing series in bed, gets in the way of that link. Also make sure that your bed is comfortable (if not, consider investing in a new one) and that you change your linen frequently to keep the space fresh and pleasant.
  3. Be intentional about light exposure. The Sleep Foundation points out that exposure to light plays a crucial role in helping our bodies regulate sleep in a healthy way. Natural light has positive effects on circadian rhythm, so try to get some outdoor time and open windows and blinds to let light into your home during the day. On the other hand, it’s important to be mindful of screen time, as blue light produced by electronic devices interferes circadian rhythms. Try to avoid using these devices for an hour before bed, and use device settings or apps to reduce or filter blue light.
  4. Stay active. Exercise has been proven to be beneficial for several reasons, but one of them is in regulating sleep. The Sleep Foundation notes that moderate-to-vigorous exercise can increase sleep quality for adults by reducing the time it takes to fall asleep and decrease the amount of time they lie awake in bed during the night.
  5. Manage your caffeine intake. Having a coffee late in the day can disrupt your sleep. In fact, consumption within six hours of bedtime can reduce your sleep time by a full hour. Try to cut down on your coffee habits to improve sleep. Read more about caffeine and sleep here.

For more news and for expert sleep advice, visit our Restonic Sleep Blog.