5 Tips For Better Sleep During A Pandemic
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
If you are like me, these past few months have introduced another level of frustration when it comes to making sure that I get good quality sleep. If you are in the “transition” phase or dealing with menopausal changes, ensuring a good night’s sleep can be even more challenging. We are living through unprecedented times and carrying stressors that often seem unbelievable. I’ve been on a mission to find ways that help me sleep better and want to share them with you. Some of the tips below were obtained from the podcast “How to Sleep Better During a Pandemic with Dr. Michael Breus” (Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik Podcast). A few of the tips at the end of the blog are my “home” remedies and they are not medical advice or recommendations for you, I’m simply sharing what has been working for me.
Keep consistent wake times, even during the weekends. Turns out, according to Dr. Breu, circadian consistency is the best thing you can do right now. While it’s important to keep a consistent bedtime, according to Dr. Breu, your wakeup time is even more important because it is the anchor to the entire circadian rhythm.
Movement. Sleep is tied to recovery. If we are not moving and being active throughout the day, the body isn’t doing recovery very well, according to Dr. Breu. You have to move. So many of us are sitting in virtual meetings all day and need to be more intentional about moving and getting those steps in. Whether it’s taking a break throughout the day or between calls to go for a quick walk, get those steps in. Here’s a quick video you can use to get 1,000 steps in about 10 minutes. I use this video and others like it ALL the time and it definitely helps with making sure that I can get some movement in throughout the day. Here’s a YouTube playlist I pieced together to use when I want to hit my 10,000 step goal in a little over an hour.
Reduce Screen Time. This is my biggest pitfall and the one we probably hear about the most these days. According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, viewing screens after 11:00 pm suppresses dopamine and punishes the brain. Bright light activation between 11:00 pm and 4:00 am kicks off a disappointment circuit and starts suppressing dopamine and disrupting blood sugar. It literally sends a chemical punishment signal that suppresses dopamine which is essential for growth-mind set, goal achievement, well-being, etc. Simply put, shut down the screens at 11:00 pm. Ugh, I need to get better at this one. I’m working on some strategies, I’ll let you know how it goes.
Gratitude before bed. If you are having super vivid dreams (I have) which are now called “quarandreaming”, and sleeping later in the morning, you're getting more REM sleep which means more vivid dreams. According to Dr. Breu there are 2 studies that show that being positive before bedtime helps you go to sleep faster and gives you more positive dreams. Get out that journal and write down 2-3 things you are grateful for before bed and catch those zzz’s.
Reduce Caffeine and Wine. This is a pretty common recommendation that was popular even before the pandemic hit. If you find that you are increasing your caffeine consumption, the first step is to acknowledge it and then scale back slowly. Try to have your last cup by 2pm. If you are a wine drinker, have a glass of water with a glass of wine and wait one hour before going to bed.
A couple of additional items that have been very helpful for me have been melatonin, magnesium and lavender essential oil. I used to take different versions of diphenhydramine (ZQuil, Benadryl, etc.) but those are not long-term sustainable solutions, plus my doctor said to stop. I think I’ve found my sweet spot with Trader Joe’s Magnesium and 5g melatonin (not a recommendation for you, just what I use.). I’m able to get good quality sleep for approximately 7 hours. As someone in the midst of the “change”, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to find a few strategies that work. Plus, before bed I take some Jojoba oil and mix in some lavender essential oil and rub my feet before bedtime. This might be a placebo effect but I love it now that it’s become a habit.
I’ve been using several of these tips for the past few months and minus the one night where I only slept two hours due to mild food poisoning (which was horrible!), I’ve been able to get good quality sleep. If you are suffering from sleeplessness or low quality sleep, it is important that you speak with your doctor to see what options might be available. Sleep is one area that we can’t afford to miss, so if this is you, call your doc sis. Feel free to share some tips that have been working for you in the comment section. Wishing you sweet sleep!