How The Global Pandemic Has Made Sleep a Struggle

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Fear + anxiety = emotional unrest, which leads immediately to insomnia.  The global pandemic has made restful sleep an uphill battle.  I find myself lying in bed, creating scenarios that send me into an eddy of agitated wakefulness.  The more I try to relax, the more I spiral into a vortex of apprehension.  Even though the peak of anxiety was in March, I find that I still struggle to cope with sleep disorders.

Widows’ sleep patterns have a big adjustment after the loss of a spouse.  It takes months, and sometimes years, to reorient one’s brain into peaceful and restful sleep.  The pandemic has recreated the anxiety and fear of loss and taken us back to the trauma surrounding our spouse’s death.  Even though looking at the big picture I see that we are all going through anxiety and sleep disorders, widows and widowers are transported back to the ordeal of gut-wrenching loss, making their grief more pronounced.  Sleep becomes an elusive figure.  Alcohol, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety medication seem the obvious choice.  But booze and pills are not to be used as coping mechanisms.  As we remember from the death of our spouse, reliance on alcohol only makes our grief more complicated. Lack of sleep has put us onto an emotional- corona-roller-coaster hurdling out of control.

Eating in a pandemic has become the bright spot for many.  I face time with friends and ask them “what’s on the menu?”  We discuss recipes ad nauseum (forgive the pun), until we satisfy our cravings.  But sleep is affected by eating too much before bed so we try to eat early and allow ourselves the luxury of sleep. Perchance to dream?

I find that I stare at my computer all day long, writing, communicating via text with friends, doing exercise routines on face time, and playing games.  The light from the computer screens, tablets, and phones impacts production of melatonin which lessens our ability to find comfort in sleep.  Stressing out to the max causes the mind to speed race which causes more anxiety, which translates into sleep disturbances.

Since our days during a pandemic have no structure, it causes us to alter our patterns making sleep more difficult.  If we are honest, we are all depressed at being cooped up without the freedom to move freely.  Walking outside becomes a chore since we are jockeying to find the space to be away from others.  It is all exhausting and causes depression to set in.  The exhaustion causes us to nod off during the day in a fog, thus making sleep at night more unattainable.

Doctors tell us that our immune systems are affected by stress.  When you sleep, your immune system replenishes itself.  Sleep is so important in our effort to stay healthy and fight off COVID-19.  Here are a few suggestions to help you to get your sleep patterns under control:

  • Do not go to bed hungry.  Since all we can think about in a pandemic is our next meal to defeat boredom, this works in our favor!
  • Meditate or at least deep breathe.  Try some guided imagery apps.
  • If possible, avoid spending time in the bedroom during the day.
  • Keep your bedroom cool so you can snuggle under the weight of a comforter.
  • Stick to a regular routine.  Try to rise early so that you are more tired at night.
  • Exercise to the max.  Take at least one long walk with a mask!  Natural light is good for the body’s circadian rhythms.
  • Avoid thrillers and scary movies before bed.  Your heart will start racing.  The Fall on Netflix is the best, but not before bed.
  • Don’t watch television or look at any screens before bed.  Read a book or a magazine.
  • Avoid too much alcohol.  I know, this is a tough one.  Melatonin supplements work for some, although they can wreak havoc on your body rhythms.
  • Journalize.  Writing down your feelings helps to get them out and freeing your mind. Write about what worries you.
  • Take a hot bath. 
  • Chew a few CBD gummies which are available on Amazon!

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