Inadequate sleep caused by the pandemic may be having a negative knock-on effect to mood, concentration and daytime functioning, the Sleep Health Foundation has warned.
During this week’s Sleep Awareness Week, the foundation is urging Australians to avoid late-night drinking and lie-ins to get the quality sleep they need to cope in uncertain times.
“A lot of Australians are currently not getting the sleep they need largely due to coronavirus-related stress,” says Professor Dorothy Bruck, Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation.
“This lack of sleep is exacerbating mental health issues, particularly for people who already experience anxiety and depression and sleep problems like insomnia.”
Those with generalised anxiety, for instance, may find themselves now worrying about the impact of the pandemic on their family, their finances, their health and their livelihoods after even a few nights of disrupted sleep, Professor Bruck says.
“We’re concerned many people don’t have the tools they need to get their sleeping back on track.”
There are also concerns that poor sleep can compromise physical health, changing eating patterns, exercise levels, blood pressure and immune response.
“Sleep helps us fight off infection,” says Professor Bruck.
“People who are sleep deprived have increased risk of contracting a virus when exposed to it.”
To help people get the sleep they need the foundation has come up with nine COVID sleep tips:
• Limit media exposure: Be sensible about how much COVID-19-related news you seek.
• Make time to unwind: Spend some time relaxing and watching, listening or reading about things that have nothing to do with COVID-19.
• Take care of your body: As much as possible keep a normal routine throughout the day. Get some exercise, eat sensibly, do not drink too much alcohol, and avoid caffeine close to bed.
• Connect with others: If you have specific concerns, try to deal with them before going to bed. Simply talking to someone you trust about your worries can often help.
• Take care of your mind: If the worry is still on your mind as you are getting ready to go to sleep, sit down quietly, think about what the issues are and how you might deal with them tomorrow. It may help to write these things down.
• Your bed is predominantly for sleep: If you go to bed and find that you cannot get to sleep, or if you wake up during the night and cannot get back to sleep because of worries, get up and do something relaxing in dim light that is quiet and away from the bedroom. Go back to bed when you feel ready to fall asleep.
• Keep a regular sleep-wake routine: As much as possible we should keep a normal sleep routine. Going to bed at the same time each night, and getting up at the same time each morning is important for getting a good night of sleep
• Managing fatigue: Remember that even if you did not get much sleep, or it seemed to be poor sleep, it is not the end of the world. You will get through the next day all right and if you are quite tired, you will probably sleep better the next night.
• Sleep is like a butterfly: You cannot reach out and grab it and catch it. If you stay quiet and still, the butterfly will come to you. It is the same with sleep.