COVID-19 is impacting many aspects of our lives — including how we sleep. In one survey, 87% of Americans reported experiencing unusual dreams since the start of the pandemic. And a study in Dreaming found that people most affected by the pandemic — for example, those who were sick — reported a bigger impact in their dreams, including experiencing negative and pandemic-related dreams. It’s no wonder the added stress of living through COVID-19 is leading to more vivid, intense, and at times, anxiety-inducing dreams.
One step you can take to help combat COVID-19 dreams and nightmares is to practice healthy sleep-related habits, also known as sleep hygiene. Here are 5 simple habits that help encourage better sleep.
Keep your bedroom cooler
Many experts agree that the ideal room temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees. Your body temperature naturally lowers as you fall asleep, and a cooler room can help make that happen faster.
Try not to consume caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. It can stay in your system and keep you stimulated for a surprisingly long time. From mid-afternoon on, pass on coffee, tea, chocolate, and any pain relievers containing caffeine. For a non-caffeinated swap, try herbal teas, certain fruits, or Tylenol. And remember, it’s always best to avoid eating or drinking close to your bedtime.
Develop an evening routine
Starting an hour before bed, ease yourself out of your day with relaxing activities like:
- Taking a warm bath
- Reading a good book
- Listening to soothing music
- Writing in a journal
- Meditating for 10 to 15 minutes
- Doing gentle stretches
Your entire family can take part in these activities — whether that includes reading a bedtime story or listening to music together.
And remember to make your bed a sanctuary for sleep. It’s especially important as many people are working from home. So, set up a separate space for your at-home office. And try charging your smartphone and other devices out of reach from your bed — or even in another room. Instead of scrolling through social media, you can focus on unwinding.
Keep a consistent sleep schedule
Going to bed at the same time each night sets your internal clock — your mind and body will come to expect sleep by a certain hour. When possible, stick to your routine even on weekends to avoid sleep issues on Sunday night.
Exercise early in the day
Certain workouts, such as cardio and strength training, can boost your energy and make it harder to fall asleep afterward. Try to schedule these high-energy workouts in the morning, and keep your evening activity less intense (like yoga).
Getting enough sleep is an important step to keeping your mind and body healthy. You can find more tips, including a bedtime meditation and wellness resources online. And if you need more help managing stress or anxiety, contact your care team.