A steady stream of Coronavirus news, rising anxiety levels, vivid dreams, and nightmares make it seem more difficult than ever to get a good night’s sleep. Even the soundest sleepers can experience circadian rhythm disturbances from it.
The good news is that you’re not alone; the new coronavirus is preventing many people from falling asleep. We consulted Raj Dasgupta, M.D., a board-certified specialist in sleep medicine, assistant program director of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Southern California, and a member of the Prevention Medical Review Board, to learn how to resume a regular schedule.
Before Coronavirus a lot of people experienced insomnia, and that figure is only increasing, according to Dr. Raj. The disruption of our daily lives caused by working from home, getting less natural light, and not adhering to a schedule is currently the biggest obstacle to getting enough sleep. Other stressors include future uncertainty, excessive screen time, and worry about health or money, which when combined lead you to wake up or toss and turn all night. However, as Dr. Raj says, there are a few remedies that might hold the secret to improving sleep.
1. Go to sleep.
Dr. Raj advises taking what is known as a power nap if you are sleep deficient. It has to do with when to take the nap, which should be between midday and 2 p.m. Our circadian rhythms typically cause us to feel sleepy at that time. Additionally, power naps should only last 20 minutes; any longer, and “you’ll feel foggy.”
Caffeine napping, which involves taking a cup of coffee or tea shortly before a sleep and lying down until the caffeine wakes you up naturally 20 minutes later, is one of his favourite power nap techniques. However, those who suffer from insomnia should never take a nap. Dr. Raj says that it “takes away your drive to sleep at night.” You want to sleep more at night the more awake you are during the day.
2. Keep an eye on your coffee intake.
For about 63% of American adults, brewing a cup of coffee in the morning is a tradition. However, your sleep may not benefit from that habit. After one or two cups, there may be some alerting effect, according to Dr. Raj. But after that third or fourth cup, you’ll experience all of caffeine’s side effects instead of just the alerting effects. Start reducing your caffeine intake if you consume too much. Caffeinated drinks should not be consumed later in the day.
3. Avoid abruptly starting or stopping your sleep medication.
“I wouldn’t just stop taking these medications cold turkey for those of you who are taking them for your insomnia, Dr. Raj advises. There are some sleep aids that you may want to taper off if you plan to stop using them.” Before quitting using medications like Sonata or Ambien completely, consult your primary care physician.
The same holds true for beginning them. Use caution when using over-the-counter medications like diphenhydramine, which is an ingredient in Benadryl and Aleve PM. Dr. Raj advises “be careful, especially if you’re ill or if you have COVID-19.” “The last thing I want to do is give you a drug that affects your respiratory drive in any way,” the doctor said. To find out if there are any temporary fixes that might be effective for you, speak with your doctor.
4. Consume food sensibly.
Your diet plays a significant role in how well you sleep. Since the issuance of shelter-in-place orders, many of us, including Dr. Raj, have relied on snacking to pass the time. Dr. Raj explains that eating late will result in less restful sleep at night. “You shouldn’t eat two hours before bedtime.”
He explains that heartburn is the cause of the issue; when you digest food while you sleep, you experience heartburn, which leads to nighttime awakenings. You won’t enter those deeper sleep stages, according to Dr. Raj. “When you eat makes a significant difference.” Avoid foods that are likely to cause heartburn, such as caffeine, tomatoes, and chocolate, and limit your snacking before bedtime to avoid this fate.
5. Avoid depending on alcohol.
Dr. Raj is the first to acknowledge that drinking alcohol will definitely put you to sleep, but that doesn’t make it a wise decision. The second half of the night will likely see numerous awakenings and arousals, according to him. Alcohol is simply not the best way to fall asleep every night, whether it is because it disrupts circadian rhythms or just results in a few more trips to the bathroom. Dr. Raj cautions against using alcohol as a sleeping aid. “I’m not trying to say don’t drink at all,” she says.
6. Make wise use of melatonin
Melatonin is a naturally occurring substance that the body releases, typically at night, and altering this balance by taking more of it can make it harder to fall asleep. It’s important to use it responsibly if you do decide to take it. Dr. Raj advises taking melatonin two hours prior to the time you want to go to bed because taking it later can interfere with your sleep cycle. “It significantly alters your circadian rhythm. Not the dose amount, but the timing is everything.”
7. Avoid screen time right before bed.
Dr. Raj advises putting technology away as much as you can, especially at night. In addition to the stress of reading the news right before bed, screens’ blue light can also keep people awake. Light comes in various wavelengths, according to Dr. Raj. “Blue light is the one that suppresses melatonin the most.” The answer is to use night mode or just stop using screens altogether, choosing to read a book or practice meditation in their place.