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The Importance of Sleep and Healthy Routines During COVID-19

COVID-19 has created an unprecedented crisis during which, many people have experienced struggles regarding their sleep and difficulties maintaining routines. Individual mental health is crucial for both individual wellbeing and for maintaining relationships. Therefore, it is important that people are limiting their screen-time, getting enough sleep, and sticking to their routines, all of which have a direct impact on mental health [1]. In this blog post, we explore ways to maintain healthy sleep habits and daily routines during this continued time of uncertainty.

Set healthy sleep habits.

According to UC Berkeley neuroscientist Matthew Walker, “Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting.”  One half of American adults aren’t getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night with the average amount of sleep dropping from 7.9 hours in 1942 to only 6.5 hours in 2018 [2]. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is critical for emotional stability, and individuals with interrupted sleep-cycles are more likely to manifest negative mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression [3]. Not only does sleep improve stability, it is also essential for a healthy immune system, which might aid the body in the fight against COVID-19. Stability and a healthy immune system are both needed during this pandemic; therefore, it’s a great time to focus on getting quality sleep. Here is a list of strategies for improving sleep [2]:

  • Cease using electronic devices two hours before going to sleep. Light from cell phones and electronics can simulate daytime, disrupting sleep habits.
  • If possible, be consistent in the times you go to bed and wake up, every day.
  • Avoid caffeine and other substances before bed, as it is shown to disrupt the REM sleep cycle.

Set daily routines for work and leisure.

With social-distancing measures taking effect and people quarantining themselves to prevent the spread of COVID-19, school, work, and daily routines are affected. People find themselves procrastinating, idly worrying, and spending too much time on their devices. Feelings of anxiousness are normal and acknowledging that these feelings are present rather than suppressing them can help manage anxiety [4]. Routines bring a sense of stability and expectations as to how one’s day will go, which can be grounding amidst the many uncertainties. Additionally, creating a schedule for meaningful work time and meaningful leisure throughout the day might aid in decreasing behaviors such as procrastination and worrying [5]. The following are some rejuvenating leisure activities that you might consider including in your daily routine during this time of social isolation [6]:

  • Exploring a new hobby
  • Relaxing with meditation or yoga
  • Brisk walks outside
  • Calling loved ones
  • Gardening

Additional Contributor: Parker Korpak, UT Undergraduate Student

References:

  1. Plata, M. (2018, October 4). The power of routines in your mental health. Psychology Today. 
  2. The Joe Rogan Experience – Sleep Expert and Neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker • Podcast Notes. (2019, December 4). 
  3. Anwar, Y. (2019, October 22). Everything you need to know about sleep, but are too tired to ask. University of California Berkeley.
  4. Covid-19: 5 tips to face your anxiety. (2020). Columbia University Department of Psychiatry. 
  5. Pevzner, H. (2020 April 29). Building the perfect day. Psychology Today. 
  6. 30 creative ways to spend your free time during covid-19. (2020) Northwest Arkansas Community College Counseling and Wellness Center.