Are you facing trouble falling asleep at night? Has work from home sent your sleep for a toss? Are stress and anxiety making you restless and giving you unrefreshing sleep? Here is a look at how this pandemic has affected our sleeping habits and brought sleep issues to the forefront. I have shared a few tips that can help get your sleep cycle back on track and you can enjoy a sound refreshing sleep.
How has the lockdown affected our sleep?
Sleep is influenced by multiple factors, prominent among them include one’s lifestyle, working habits, associated medical conditions, drug intake, and light exposure. The current pandemic has not only increased our stress levels but has also impacted our work culture and lifestyle. People are working from home, spending more time on the laptop, binge-watching movies and shows on online platforms, aren’t able to follow regular exercise schedule, many are dealing with the stress of pay-cuts and job loss. All of these have led to sleep issues in otherwise healthy individuals and has also aggravated the pre-existing sleep problems in those already suffering from it.
How does sleep affect our health?
Sleep has a restorative function; it is required for memory reinforcement and consolidation, for maintenance of thermoregulation and at the cellular level for expression of gene function, protein synthesis and growth. Sleep disorders and medical conditions frequently co-exist. While long-standing untreated sleep disorder may increase the risk of medical disorders, a sleep disorder may also be a consequence of an underlying medical condition.
Majority of sleep disorders present with either sleeplessness (insomnia) or excessive sleepiness (hypersomnolence). Insufficient sleep or poor quality of sleep leads to increased release of stress hormones, in particular, cortisol and catecholamines; a chronically elevated level of these hormones in the body is associated with increased risk of lifestyle-related disorders such as cardiovascular disorders, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.
In turn, these lifestyle-related disorders are associated with increased risk of sleep-related breathing disorders leading to poor quality of sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness which then again aggravates pre-existing medical conditions turning it into a vicious cycle.
Tips for a sound refreshing sleep during the lockdown period:
1. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Having a regular sleep schedule reduces the tendency for insomnia.
2. Limit screen time (television, mobile, laptop). The blue light emanating from electronic gadget screens acts as an alerting signal for the brain and can result in delayed sleep onset.
3. Avoid tea/coffee in the late afternoon or evening. These are stimulants for the brain and their consumption towards the latter half of the day can result in delayed sleep onset.
4. Engage in hobbies to avoid stress. This is particularly relevant in the current lockdown situation and can be a good stress-buster as it not only keeps one busy but also reduces the anxiety.
5. While it is important to be updated, avoid excessive watching of news channels which worsens stress.
6. Excessive exposure to sad and disturbing news can lead to negative thinking and increase anxiety levels.
7. Practice meditation/yoga. This again is an excellent habit to calm and soothe one’s nerves and also has a positive influence on physical health.
By Dr. Prashant Makhija, Consultant Neurologist, Wockhardt Hospital Mumbai Central