There’s no denying it – this pandemic is hitting us hard. We’re all struggling in our own ways, some more deeply than others, and it has without a doubt been challenging to feel settled. My sleep, in particular, has taken a big hit. And I know I’m not alone. The anxiety around the uncertainty of days ahead looms in bedrooms across the world.
Recently, I had the classic nightmare of my teeth falling out, and was grinding my teeth so intensely that I woke myself up. I know – not a pretty picture. When anxiety gets in the way of peaceful sleep, our lack of sleep starts to affect every other aspect of our daily lives. Sleep will forever be important, but these days sleep seems to play an even bigger role. Neuroscientist Matthew Walker, Ph.D. argued this month in a TED Talk that sleep may matter now more than ever. “Sleep is an investment in your physical health as well as your mental health,” he says – both of which we all need a lot of right now. A restful night means a more rested mind, better able to manage our wellbeing and be available to help others during this crisis.
We have the ability to take ownership of what this pandemic is throwing at us. To start, I’ve decided to become best friends with my sleep. Rather than allowing sleep to be an added source of anxiety, my goal with these tips is to help sleep come to us and to make it enjoyable. Because we all deserve it, and we all certainly need it.
Get a Move On
Living in New York City means I’m usually (ahem, constantly) on the go, hopping from neighborhood to neighborhood, surrounded by millions of people. How quickly that lifestyle was ripped from so many of us!
I’ve become significantly more sedentary, so I’m having to actively add in more steps to my day. Whether that means going for a walk outside, doing a digital workout (my current faves: Y7 Yoga, Brukwine, and 305 Fitness), or having a virtual dance party with my friends – I need to get moving. The more active I am during the day, the less of a reason my body has to stay awake at night.
Put. The Screen. Down.
On the second day of social isolation, my phone kindly notified me that my screen time was up 143% percent from the week before. Being away from my friends was clearly off to a great start…separation anxiety, anyone?
I now aim to fill my days with a mix of screen activities (working, chatting with loved ones, or staying informed) and non-screen activities (reading, playing piano, and learning chess). I’m committed to putting all screens away starting at 10:30pm and have already noticed a difference. Without a screen to distract me, I quickly realize how deeply tired I am. Once I turn off the light and slip on my eye mask, I pass out instantly.
Stay Hydrated, Hunnies
Once this new normal set in, I quickly fell into the trap of “treating myself” to a glass of wine every night. But in the long run, even just a sip of alcohol isn’t doing me any favors when it comes to good quality sleep.
I’ve been saying no to alcohol during the week, and it’s incredible how quickly my sleep transformed. There have been fewer nights where I randomly wake up, and I’m feeling less groggy the next day. Instead of wine, I’m chugging water at dinner, and will celebrate every night I climb in bed full of that hydrating goodness and empty of alcohol. Healthy amounts of sleep and a hydrated body make for a strong immune system, a power team I think we can all agree is critical during today’s health crisis.