Your bedroom’s cool and dark. You’ve tried counting sheep. But still, you can’t quite seem to nod off—or stay there.
If you’re having sleep problems, you’re not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an exhaustion emergency. One recent study found about 40% of the population now reports troubled slumber.
That’s understandable—but unfortunate. Good sleep, 7 to 8 hours of it, makes any crisis more manageable. Well rested, you can focus and make smarter decisions. And your immune system stays stronger, setting you up for better protection from infections.
What you do at night matters, but you can start prepping for bedtime even earlier. Here’s how.
During the day
Get up around the same time each morning. As soon as you can, seek sunshine. Natural light keeps your biological clock properly synced, so you’re alert during the day and sleepy at night.
Working out can make it easier to drift off. But it’s better to get your exercise done early. Similarly, cut off caffeine and naps after mid-afternoon.
Finally, schedule time in your day to worry. Fears you suppress can keep you awake or crop up in your dreams. Spend a few waking moments writing down your anxieties to release them.
Right before bed
Avoid large meals and alcoholic drinks close to bedtime. Power down your electronic devices. Instead of watching TV or scrolling social media, create a soothing presleep ritual. Take 30 minutes to listen to music, have a bath, or meditate.
During the night
Stop tossing and turning. If you wake up for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed. Do something relaxing, such as reading a book, until you feel tired.
When to get help
If you still have trouble falling or staying asleep regularly, talk with your healthcare provider. Also check in if sleepiness persists after a good night’s rest or interferes with your daily activities. Treatment can improve many sleep disorders, often without medicine.
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN