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Is COVID Insomnia Real? How to Get a Good Night's Sleep During the Pandemic

We've Made a List of Practical Tips to Help You Get the Good Night's Sleep You're Missing During the Pandemic

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It's 4 a.m., and here you are, reading this article on your phone while you should be asleep. But, of course, you've tried! You've been waiting for hours now to fall asleep, and the shut-eye you desire just hasn't happened.

Some people have been experiencing disturbed sleep for years, but these symptoms seemed to have crept up for others around the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, a study found that half of its respondents reported their sleep being more disturbed than usual since the pandemic outbreak.

"COVID-19 is causing a huge amount of anxiety for so many people," said Dr. Kimberly Hardin, a health professor in the UC Davis' Department of Internal Medicine, as well as the director of UC Davis Sleep Medicine fellowship program and Veterans Administration Sleep Lab. "People worry about jobs, about their kids being home, about getting sick. There's a lot more anxiety, fear, and depression—and those can cause insomnia." The reasons are multifold: stress about the pandemic, changes in routine, financial insecurity, child care demands, and more. And they may all contribute to your lack of sleep.

Insomnia is traditionally defined as disturbed sleep for at least three nights a week for at least three months. So, one bad night of sleep a week won't kill you, but how your body reacts to those bad nights of sleep may set you on a path toward more long-term sleep issues. The best thing to do if you're struggling with sleep is to adopt healthy sleep-promoting habits, so we made a list of seven ways to help you get a good night's sleep during the pandemic.

1. Stick to a Routine

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One of the most significant changes people faced during lockdown was the complete upheaval of their regular schedules. You had it all down pat before: up by 6:30 a.m. to get ready for work, hit up your favorite coffee place, maybe even get in some time at the gym, and take care of your children (human or furry). But now, everyone in your family is completely thrown off. Whether you're dealing with suddenly homeschooling your children or just struggling to adjust to the lack of office structure in your new work-from-home life, building a new-normal routine can help you achieve better sleep habits.

"We're supposed to be up in the daytime and sleeping at night, but a lot of people are working and sleeping all these weird hours," Hardin said. "Their circadian rhythms get out of whack. Those regulate every cell in your body. They affect your eating, digestion, immune response, and sleep. Once the master clock gets disrupted, everything else breaks down."

Setting the alarm is the first step in re-establishing your routine. Schedule yourself times to work, and add in times to eat, to do a YouTube workout or whatever aspects of your previous routine you miss. Make sure to give yourself times to take a break like you would during a typical day pre-pandemic.

"If you're working from home, keep the same schedule as if you were going to work," Hardin said. "Don't sleep in or stay up late. When that alarm rings, as painful as it is, get up."

2. Put the Electronics Away

We know this can be one of the hardest things to do. Our lives are so wrapped up in our phones and laptops, especially now that we live more remotely than ever before. But, all of that blue light from our electronics messes with our body's ability to release melatonin, an important hormone that signals our brain that it's time to wind down for sleep.

"I know this is hard for people, but please put down the electronics. TV is OK, but it's even better to read a book." Hardin said. "You don't want that light from a screen right in your face."

3. Create a Separate Work Space

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You want your brain to distinguish between places for sleep and places for work, and the best way to do that is to establish physically separate locations. Try not to do work in your bedroom, but especially from your bed.

"You want to train your brain that this is the place where you rest," said Angela Drake, a clinical professor at UC Davis' Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, who works extensively on managing insomnia without medications. "You don't want it saying, 'This is where you work.' If you have nowhere else to work, at least don't work on the bed."

4. Get Out of Bed

If you're waking up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, don't stay in your bed tossing and turning. "If you can't sleep for more than a half hour, get up and leave the bedroom," Hardin advises. "Do something simple and monotonous in dim light."

Go hang out on your couch and work on an adult coloring book, flip through a magazine, or re-read a book you've finished before. (You may not get as invested if you already know how it ends.) What matters is doing something to help your brain relax and not wind you back up.

5. Cut Back on the Caffeine

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Unfortunately, the beverages we use to get us going in the morning and calm us down at night can impact our sleep patterns in undesirable ways. If you need a cup of coffee to get your day started, that's not a problem. But try to avoid that afternoon cup of coffee. One study found that caffeine may disrupt your sleep up to six hours after consuming it, leading to an hour or more of lost rest. So if you want to start getting ready for sleep around 9 p.m., experts advise you to stop drinking caffeine as early as 2 or 3 p.m. If you feel like you need that afternoon boost to get through the day, try a cup of black tea instead; it has half the amount of caffeine.

6. Take a Break From Breaking News

"I've had to limit the news consumption for some patients," Drake said. "Our brains are not really wired to handle all the constant news alerts and headlines. They're constantly ringing our alarm bells. It's like the car alarm in our brain is constantly going off."

7. Consider a Sleep-Promoting Supplement

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If you've already established a strong nighttime routine and adopted sleep-promoting habits and these aren't quite enough, you may consider adding a sleep-promoting supplement to your routine.

Please consult with your trusted physician before taking any supplement or medication.

We found two all-natural, vegan, and non-habit-forming supplements that may help you get the sleep you've always wanted—or at least have wanted throughout the pandemic.

The supplement Put Me to Sleep is based on the latest sleep research to help ease your mind and support your sleep. Many other sleep supplements provide at least 3 to 5 milligrams of melatonin per serving, but that is significantly more than your brain produces during the whole night. Sometimes, you don't need more melatonin—you need more effective melatonin. Put Me to Sleep is formulated with vitamin B6, magnesium, GABA, L-Theanine, and 5-hydroxytryptophan, which, in addition to melatonin, may help promote sleep naturally.

Click here to buy 90 chewable capsules of Put Me to Sleep for $39.95.

Another product that may help you achieve the sleep of your dreams is Restful Sleep, developed by brain expert Dr. Daniel Amen. Restful Sleep is designed to help you wind down and achieve calming sleep throughout the night without that groggy feeling the next day. It is formulated with five all-natural ingredients: Vitamin B6, magnesium, GABA, valerian extract, and melatonin.

Click here to buy 60 capsules of Restful Sleep for $39.95.

Ready to get a full night's sleep rest? Click here to try Put Me to Sleep and click here to try Restful Sleep by BrainMD.

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