4 tips to protect your sleep in the COVID-19 pandemic

"Tired soldiers make mistakes. Tired doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers don't function optimally and get sick," says Nicole Tang. (Credit: Getty Images)

With the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to get quality sleep, researchers warn.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of people throughout the world. Many people are unable to go to work, some have seen their hours cut, and some have had their job prospects changed. Almost everyone has had their normal routine is upset in one way or another by COVID-19, and their sleeping pattern may be compromised, too.

“In the midst of a major battle, it’s hard to think of sleep as a priority, but it is true!”

Researchers have put together a tips to protect your sleep for students, but they can also work for the general population in a time when their mental health and sleep may be suffering.

“My colleagues and I were motivated to put together a simple poster to share some tried and tested strategies for protecting sleep during stress at this exceptional time,” says Nicole Tang, from the psychology department at the University of Warwick.

“In the midst of a major battle, it’s hard to think of sleep as a priority, but it is true! Tired soldiers make mistakes. Tired doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers don’t function optimally and get sick,” Tang says.

“For students with whom we have a pastoral role, we hope the tips will help them think of sleep and give themselves permission to rest properly and stay healthy.”

Their tips are:

1. Insomnia is a normal reaction to stress.

This makes protecting your sleep now all the more important, because getting a sufficient amount of good-quality sleep helps to keep your body and mind healthy. Sleep can boost your immune system, improve your mood, and keep your mind sharp.

2. Keep calm and don’t bring your worries to bed.

Uncertainty can trigger excessive worries. Limit the time you spend checking the news and social media if it is too upsetting. Set aside 20 minutes during the day to write down your worries and problem-solve. Calm your mind with relaxation strategies that work for you, like singing.

Be mindful—take a moment to breathe and bring your attention to the here and now. Connect with friends online and talk.

3. Keep a regular sleep and work routine.

Tempted to sleep in? Resist if you can. Get up and go to bed at the same time each day. This will help you maintain a good sleep rhythm.

Avoid daytime napping or doing other things in bed (like checking your phone, watching TV, eating, online learning, doing exam revisions, job hunting, etc.) Make your bed a sleep sanctuary.

4. Keep moving and looking out for the sun.

Find the time to exercise daily. Use online resources to get a good home workout. Where possible, exercise outdoors while keeping a safe distance from others (six feet). Daily light exposure helps to reset your circadian rhythm.

Source: University of Warwick