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5 Tips for Better Sleep During the Coronavirus Crisis

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Posted by Tahseen Shariff, CRT, RPSGT

Like many, you may be struggling to catch your Zs during the COVID-19 pandemic. As manager of the Temple Sleep Disorders Center, I know that getting a good night’s sleep helps you to feel your best and stay healthy. This is even more important now with social distancing (otherwise known as physical distancing).

Here are a few habits I recommend to patients that you can incorporate into your daily schedule to help get the best night's sleep:

1. Get Up and Move

Sleep quality improves with even minimal exercise, so get up and move. If you’re able to walk or jog outside, the fresh air will do you good — as long as you stay 6 feet away from your neighbors.

If you’re unable to get outside, that’s OK. Gyms, fitness centers and yoga studios are all posting workouts online. Or, come up with your own routine. Just 10 to 20 minutes a day is all you need to help you rest better.

Here are 4 types of exercises you can try >

2. Avoid Eating Close to Bedtime

You may be baking or cooking more, now that you’re practicing social distancing. Good for you! Just try not to eat anything new, heavy or spicy a few hours before bedtime to give yourself enough time to digest your food. Eating too close to bed can cause indigestion or heartburn.

Foods to avoid before going to sleep:

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons
  • Fatty or fried meals
  • Foods with a lot of heat or spice

If you’re hungry close to bedtime, choose a light healthy snack. Almonds, a small bite of turkey or oats with honey are great alternatives to large meals.

3. Be Mindful of What You Drink

It might be tempting to have a few glasses of wine before bed to help you relax. You may fall asleep initially, but drinking alcohol can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. Alcohol also blocks REM sleep, the most restorative phase of sleep.

If you do drink alcohol, have a 3- to 5-ounce glass of wine an hour before dinner, and then have water with dinner.

If you drink tea, carbonated beverages or water at night, be sure to stop drinking about an hour before you plan to go to bed to help avoid those nighttime trips to the bathroom.

4. Make Your Sleep Area Cozy

Bedrooms are exclusively for sleeping, so make it a haven. Here are some recommendations:

Put mobile phones on “Do Not Disturb” mode and turn them facedown or put them on the floor beside the bed. You may need them for emergencies, but you don’t want the blue light to disturb your sleep patterns.

Save binge watching for the couch. If you’ve been dying to watch that latest Netflix series, schedule a regular time to watch it on the couch or in a cozy nook. Avoid watching TV or devices in bed.

Make your bed every day, so you can pull down the covers and get in every night. Your bedroom should be quiet and dark with a comfortable temperature.

5. Stay on Track

Even during this uncertain time, try to stay on your regular sleep schedule. You should:

  • Go to bed at roughly the same time every night, and get up at the same time every day
  • Allow yourself enough time to get at least 7 hours of sleep
  • Get out of bed or read a book to wind down if you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes

The stress of social distancing and unknowns of the coronavirus are affecting everyone. Take just a little bit of your control back by taking charge of your own sleep hygiene.

If you’re still having trouble sleeping — even with these sleep hygiene tips — reach out to Temple Health once the threat of COVID-19 has passed. We can work with you to get better sleep.

Tahseen Shariff, CRT, RPSGT

Tahseen is Manager of the Temple Sleep Center.

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