Increased anxiety that leads to an unhealthy sleep pattern. Pic: Supplied
Increased anxiety that leads to an unhealthy sleep pattern. Pic: Supplied

Why we aren’t sleeping well

By Partnered Content Time of article published May 11, 2020

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Covid-19 has affected everything, even our sleep patterns. Are you going to bed later and getting up early for meetings? Or just not sleeping as usual? 

Many of our sleep patterns have fallen out of sync while we’re home permanently. It might take a bit of effort, but getting enough sleep is an essential part of mental and physical wellbeing.

Dr Seranne Motilal from the Vitality Clinical Wellness team says: “We know how sleep is essential for boosting immunity and bolstering physical well-being. Sleep may be as important as diet and exercise in maintaining our physical and mental well-being.”

Why we aren’t we sleeping well

“During times of heightened stress, such as this, excessive worrying may impact our ability to sleep,” says Dr Motilal.

Each person reacts differently to stress. At the same time,  everyone is experiencing more stress with Covid-19 and national containment measures. This disrupts our daily routines and makes it difficult to keep track of the time of day.

“We no longer have our typical environmental cues (like eating breakfast, going to work, school drop-offs, meetings, night-time routines) to help maintain sleep cycles. There’s also the temptation to oversleep or sleep more  when working from home,” Dr Motilal says.

We’re more worried about life right now. “Increased anxiety that leads to an unhealthy sleep pattern, and poor sleep may also make our mental health challenges and mental well-being worse,” she adds. This makes us more irritable and less able to concentrate than usual.

Habits to help you sleep better

Changing your habits can improve how long and how well you sleep:

- Keep your daily routine structured. Exercise, move, meditate or stretch when you’re feeling fatigued. Try eating at the same time in the day. Continue to shower or bath at the usual time and get dressed, even if you are practising physical distancing.

- Intentionally structure time in your day to unwind and relax. Meditate if you can.

- Look after your physical wellbeing by sticking to a healthy diet and include exercise (well before bedtime) or some movement daily.

- Cut back on stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and large meals in the late afternoon.

- It’s tricky, but try to reduce screen time since it “makes us busier, and more anxious if we’re reading the news,” Dr Motilal says.

- “Be aware of your engagement with social media and the potential for information overload or focusing too much on only ‘negative’ information. Engage with valid sources of information and strive towards engaging with uplifting news and information,” she says.

- Connect with those around you, and connect virtually with those outside the home.

- Try to use your bed and bedroom mostly for sleep. Use sleep hygiene practices like adjusting lighting, room temperature, and reduce noise and disturbances like cellphones.

- Create regular sleep–wake routines that are manageable and healthy, and avoid daytime naps if possible.

- “If you still cannot fall asleep, try not to force it. Break the pattern. Reset and try again.” “Instead of focusing on ‘falling asleep’ rather focus on relaxing and getting your mind to settle by meditation, practising mindfulness, or engaging in an activity that you enjoy and find relaxing,” Dr Motilal adds.

If you follow these tips and still don’t sleep well, speak to your doctor or have an online consultation.

Am I the only one not sleeping well?

“It’s reasonable to expect the possibility that our sleeping patterns may be impacted right now. Not getting a good night sleep may be a very normal response to an abnormal situation. People seem to be over-performing at work, in some cases. Striving for perfection is not the goal. Working towards looking after your wellbeing is,” says Dr Motilal.

“Stressing about sleep may have a cyclic effect: worrying about not falling asleep may be the element preventing you from falling asleep. Try to accept that you cannot force yourself to fall asleep or stay asleep. You can instead focus on engaging in relaxation exercises or using sleep apps. Listen to what your body needs,” she says.

Visit  Discovery’s Covid-19 information hub for more information on living and working during the pandemic.

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