Sleep in the Time of COVID-19

Sleep is difficult in the best of times, but factor in COVID-19 concerns and it’s not a stretch to say that people all over the world are having sleepless nights. A task force of the European Academy for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (France, U.K., Germany, and Austria) saw fit to address the concerns via research that appeared in the Journal of Sleep Research in April.

As reported, the research team discussed the known effects of stress, confinement, and altered schedules of sleep. “The authors present recommendations on ways to manage sleep problems such as insomnia in the general public and potentially encourage people to take advantage of the opportunity to align their schedules with their natural circadian rhythms,” write Medscape reporters. “Physicians may find the recommendations helpful in advising patients with sleep problems related to the COVID-19 emergency.” 

Researchers made the following recommendations, many of which are familiar to sleep clinicians, but are worth reiterating during the pandemic. 

• Try to keep a regular night‐time and wake‐up time schedule. Always get up at more or less the same time, bring some structure to the day, in particular for children.

• Schedule brief (e.g. 15 min) times during the day to stress and reflect upon the situation: write thoughts down, talk about stress, etc. Try to restrict your thinking about these things to specific times to reduce the chance that this stress interferes with night‐time sleep.

• If possible, use your bed only for sleep and sex, and for no other activity; this is best achieved by only going to bed when you normally feel sleepy.

• Use the current opportunity to follow your natural sleep rhythm closer (in particular for evening types and adolescents).

• Use this opportunity to allow your sleep period to fit more with your natural circadian preference (e.g. for an earlier or later sleep−wake timing than is typically allowed, in particular for adolescents, older adults and evening types – see explanations above).

• Use social media to share feelings of stress and anxiety with family and friends, but also to share distracting positive information, e.g. with humorous content, possibly unrelated to the virus outbreak. However, do not take devices and tablets into the bedroom; switch them off before going to bed to reduce sleep disruption due to light exposure, notifications, and the need to respond to requests and posts.

Click Here to see full list of recommendations.

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