The world has been pushed into unchartered territory over the past year with the spread of Covid-19, and the waters still seem murky ahead. Loved ones have been lost, families are separated, travel plans have fallen into chaos, the economy is crumbling and countries are closing their borders.
With so much uncertainty and worry, it’s easy to let sleep fall under the radar and deal with itself, while we sit and worry about our friends and family.
Multiple stay-at-home orders and jobs around the world turning to a remote environment have led people to change their entire schedules and day to day living. Many are finding time to nap in the afternoon, while others are spending much more time in front of the television, skewing all regular or healthy eating habits. Routines have gone out of the window and, with them, any sign of quality sleep routines and habits.
Following the first quarantine in 2020, Sleep Standards carried out a study into the sleeping habits of Americans, post-lockdown: Sleep Habits Post Lockdown In The U.S. (2020). The study included 1,015 respondents in the United States between the ages of 18 and 79 and explored how their sleep habits have changed post lockdown.
It was found that 53% of people are sleeping less now than before the pandemic and 67% of respondents believed they had a better quality of sleep before lockdown. Almost all of the participants in the study have developed new sleep problems following the worry and uncertainty brought on by the lockdown, at 98% and 68% now find it difficult to fall asleep due to the stress of the situation.
Daily routine has been thrown into turmoil for most of the world’s population, with social distancing, varying work environments, new childcare schedules and catching up with family and friends on video calls alone. All of these changes can make it difficult to keep a track of time when we’re spending all of our time in the same place and not able to break up our schedules with normal socializing and daily milestones.
For those of us stuck at home with low levels of natural light, our circadian rhythms could be affected by this. These light based cues for sleep and wake times are known as zeitgebers, and we’re all out of sync.
Working from home, without the early morning commute, may have encouraged some people to oversleep in the morning. Excessive sleep can cause just as many problems as no sleep, and so this is leading to grogginess and lack of focus throughout the day.
Naturally, everyone is worried about their health, their friends and their family. People do not want to spread the virus to their loved ones and people are staying away. Some have not seen their family for the better part of a year and this causes so much loneliness and stress. Fear is driving people to sleep less, drink more and smoke more. All of which affect our quality of sleep and life. 23% of Americans have reported drinking more at home since the initial lockdown, and consumption of alcohol itself has risen from 71% to 79%, according to a study carried out by responsibility.org.
Cancelled travel plans and constant worry about our children not in school has led to a mind which can simply not turn off and causes us to toss and turn throughout the night, struggling to find some peace and relaxation.
With reality cut off and everyone turning to screens to connect to every aspect of life: work, family, friends, entertainment and education, the world is spending much more time staring into a digital screen and much less time on physical activity. Fitbit found a 15% reduction in physical activity across North and South American users in 2020.
Unfortunately, too much screen time and not enough exercise can cause an imbalance in melatonin levels, which is the hormone that helps us feel rested and sleep. Over stimulating the brain with digital devices, especially close to bedtime, can keep our brain alert and cause difficulty with falling asleep.
Sleep is one of the single most critical biological functions we need as a human. Sleep affects our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and during a global pandemic, it is arguably more important than it has ever been. Sleep can not only strengthen your immune system, which is imperative to fight viruses and improve our bodies defences in order to avoid picking it up in the first place, but a lack of quality sleep has also been linked to decreased effectiveness of vaccines.
Although times are hard and we are all facing challenges never before faced, with the future still uncertain, not all is lost. There are steps we can take to ensure we get a good quality of sleep each night, without oversleeping and without cutting our sleep cycles short.
With time management being a thing of the past, routines are constantly changing to adapt to new circumstances and other household members. However, trying to get some structure and normality back into your day will help you and your family set some time milestones and get back into the swing of a bedtime and wake up time.
In a time where screen time is the only way we can connect with our employers, friends and family, it is difficult to reduce screen time as our devices have become our saving grace allowing us to stay connected to the world. However, try to take regular breaks at least every 20 minutes and avoid using screens very close to bedtime, in order to allow your mind time to rest.
Our melatonin levels decrease as we age, and lack of physical activity during the pandemic can also affect our levels of the hormone. Using a sleep aid like the ones we have available on TruPotency allows us to increase our levels of melatonin and provide us with a restful night’s sleep. Perfect for those who are having difficulty switching off and falling asleep in the current climate.
It’s easy to get bored sitting at home, unable to go out, and therefore we get complacent when cooking. We no longer want to spend time in the kitchen cooking nutritious meals, but simply pop something processed in the oven and wait for the timer to ping. Or support our local businesses and order out. However, the increased lack of concern for our diets and increased amount of at home drinking has led to unhealthy lifestyle choices for many, which in turn leads to poor sleeping habits.
A healthy diet and reduced alcohol intake can all help in the mission to fall asleep and stay asleep for a solid night’s rest.
Finally, lockdown has led to a global nap culture. People are taking the time to squeeze afternoon naps into their day, and with a lack of routine or need to be anywhere, these naps are happening more regularly and for longer periods of time at each rest. This leads to the inability to fall asleep when it actually comes to bedtime and knocks our circadian rhythms out of sync. If you do want to include a nap in your daily routine, try to limit yourself to the optimal 20-30 mins and try not to have a nap too late in the day.