One of the most common struggles I have been hearing lately is that individuals have been having a hard time falling asleep and/or staying asleep since the onset of the coronavirus.
This makes sense, considering many people are dealing with changes in their day to day routines. There’s also a lot of thoughts and worries circling around, which can make it hard to relax and fall asleep.
But not getting adequate sleep over time can lead to mental & physical health issues, such as anxiety, difficulty with concentration and focus, irritability, etc. Just ask any new parent who’s waking up every few hours.
If you need a little help improving your sleep right now, here are 5 tips that can help:
Keep A Routine (as much as you can)
The best way to fall asleep easily is to wake up as the same time every day. Our bodies and brains thrive on structure and routine, so maintaining a sleep schedule will make it easier to get restful sleep each night.
Sleep training is a very common and effective method for getting infants on a sleep schedule. Our son is 7 months old now and is sleeping 11-12 hours a night (for the most part) So if infants can be sleep trained, so can adults. We can retrain our brains at any age, thanks to neuroplasticity. But it takes time and patience to rewire our brains, so stay consistent and be patient.
Practice Sleep Hygiene
What does your life look like before you go to bed? Are you on a screen minutes before you close your eyes? Are you exercising right before bed? How does your brain know that it’s time to start winding down?
Sleep hygiene includes developing a routine that let’s your mind know “ok, it’s time to shift to rest mode...” This can include refraining from any screen interaction 30-60 minutes before bed, practicing deep breathing or other meditations, reading a book, or anything that helps you feel calm.
Watch your Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption is definitely up since we’ve all been practicing social isolation and social distancing. While drinking is reported to make people fall asleep, it has a direct impact on the quality of your sleep.
If you are having a few more cocktails or glasses of wine (no judgement here, our wine collection has taken a bit of a hit!), it can affect your REM cycle. REM sleep is the sleep cycle that’s responsible for reprocessing events of the day. This is when active dreaming takes place. (EMDR mimics the eye movements in REM sleep, which is why it’s such an effective treatment for anxiety and PTSD).
REM sleep is responsible for that restorative sleep that helps you feel rested in the morning. If you wake up feeling totally wiped out, check your alcohol intake. You might be hitting the bottle a little too hard to get enough rest.
Check your Caffeine Intake
Some people are drinking more coffee these days (myself included!!) to manage the additional tasks some of us are facing (home schooling, working from home, and other multi-tasking functions).
This can have a direct impact on your sleep, especially if you‘re sensitive to caffeine. Caffeine is a nootropic, meaning it can help with concentration, focus and productivity levels. But you don’t need to be productive or focused when you’re sleeping.
Try stopping any type of caffeine intake after 3pm. This may make it a little easier for your brain and body to settle in for bedtime.
Scan your Body for Tension
It can be difficult for our minds to relax if our bodies are tightly wound. It’s not uncommon to store tension in our bodies without even being aware of it.
A Body Scan meditation can be a great way to improve your awareness around your body and how it responds to stress.
As you lay in bed, scan your body from head to toe, paying special attention to any areas where you feel tension or tightness. Then, take a deep breath in and direct your breath to those areas. As you exhale, release the tension and let your body relax.
If you’re having a hard time noticing the difference between tension and relaxation, engaging in progressive muscle relaxation can help.
When all else fails, contacting a therapist can help if you’re having difficulty sleeping. Therapy can help get to the root of what’s getting in the way and teach you more tools and techniques that can help.
Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, PLLC, is a wellness and counseling center in Westchester, NY.
Our therapists specialize in the most evidenced-based treatments for children and parents, teens and adults and first responders. Our services include therapy for: anxiety, trauma, behavioral disorders, improving relationships and eating disorders.
Contact us today for more information.