The COVID-19 pandemic quarantine period is bringing dramatic changes in the daily routines of people around the globe.
From waking up at late in the morning, afternoon or evening, preparing home-cooked meals instead of the easy-peasy drive-thru fix or restaurant take-out, eating breakfast on lunch, eating lunch at night, watching Netflix series during the supposed to be regular office hours, to having late night and early morning video chats from friends and loved ones, the new routine seems to be a break from formerly established ones.
The unstable quarantined life routines have taken a toll on what is deemed as one of the precious activities known to humans—sleeping. Various studies have shown the health benefits of getting proper sleep every night as it helps the body regain, restore, and balance the physical and mental health of a person.
But with the kind of urban lifestyle nowadays as well as the anxiety-inducing effects of the imposed quarantine on the mental well-being of many people, it seems that sleep is very elusive and ever fleeting. It’s not as easy as calling it a day, turning off the lights, lying down snuggly in bed, and closing one’s eyes.
It has become a constant tossing and turning to find that sweet spot of comfort between the sheets until time flies to no avail.
Have you seen that Instagram selfie you just took or the Zoom meeting you’ve had with your workmates? Are there any dark circles and puffiness around the eye areas?
Are you getting too little sleep compared to your usual sleeping pattern? Is it happening for the past few days or even weeks? Are you feeling tired, lazy, forgetful, and moody? If yes, then you are not alone. You are experiencing what the sleep specialists call sleep deprivation.
- Avoid afternoon naps.
- Stick to your intended sleep schedule.
- Avoid eating too much or too little before going to bed.
- Get moving.
- Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and smoking cigarettes before sleeping.
- Set the ideal room environment.
- Find or replace a comfortable bed and beddings.
- Exercise device distancing.
- Find relaxing hobbies and activities.
- Consult your doctor.
What is sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation happens when a person is getting less sleep than the usual number of hours needed to keep them refreshed, alive, and awake during the day.
According to the article published by Medical News Today last 2018, although sleep deprivation is not categorized as a sleeping disorder like insomnia (the difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early not to go back to sleep again), regular and prolonged lack of sleep may lead to health problems such as weakened immune system, sleep apnea, insufficient hormone production in men and women, obesity, depression, lower libido, respiratory disease, heart disease, stroke, and even death.
You may ask: how much sleep does a person need? Well, it varies with age, medical condition (like epilepsy), and one’s body clock. Many types of research have different views on what is the number of hours needed to make it adequate.
Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep while babies need up to 15 hours of sleep. Young adults need at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep. Adults and older adults need 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
If you are an adult getting 6 hours or less than the experts’ prescribed amount of sleep, here are how you can help yourself avoid the health risks caused by sleep deprivation.
How to avoid sleep deprivation?
To improve the quality of sleep, here are 10 of the most effective ways in which you can make small changes in your lifestyle.
These suggestions aim to make sleeping soundly a habit and not an erratic and fleeting moment as well as to lessen the causes of factors and behaviors that interfere with it.
1. Avoid afternoon naps.
This is not for everyone. If you are that person who sleeps in the afternoon and cannot sleep in the evening, it might be that your body has already adjusted to the afternoon siesta instead of the usual sleep at night.
To curb this, you can do other things than sleep in the afternoon as a form of distraction. You may read a book, do meal prep for dinner, exercise, or even wash the dishes or clean the house.
This is to make sure that you are training your body to be awake in the afternoon instead of being awake at night.
2. Stick to your intended sleep schedule.
You should decide the convenient time that you have to be in bed and stick to it. The schedule may vary depending on your working schedule and lifestyle. Let’s say you have a day job from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm; you may opt to be in bed by 9 pm or 10 pm.
You can set your alarm at 5:00 am or 6:00 am to get that 8 hours of sleep prescribed by the experts. This will allow you to have ample time to prepare to work.
The first few days may be a struggle, but once you get used to it, you may not even need an alarm clock to wake up feeling energized.
3. Avoid eating too much or too little before going to bed.
This quarantine has got many people preparing their own food. Others may even resort to binge eating as a coping mechanism from too much worrying while some may avoid eating altogether with the fear of gaining weight.
Both unhealthy eating habits may affect the quality of sleep that you are getting. It is advised that you eat a few hours before bedtime to give your body a chance to properly digest the food in your stomach.
Those who do not follow this usually complain of discomfort while sleeping like acid reflux, stomach aches, shortness of breathing, and indigestion. So, eat a balanced diet and scrap binge eating or starving oneself before sleeping.
4. Get moving
Exercising regularly releases happy hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin that fights stress and feelings of restlessness. On the other hand, applying right before going to bed can hamper you from getting the desired sleep.
The discomforts of muscle pain usually cause it. Early morning and afternoon activities (3 hours before bedtime is not advisable) may help to retune the sleep-wake cycle.
Having a workout in an open-air, absorbing natural sunlight is ideal.
5. Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and smoking cigarettes before sleeping.
Many studies have proven the harmful effects of coffee, alcohol and cigarettes to overall health and well-being. In this case, they also affect sleeping patterns.
Escaping from the temptation brought by caffeinated food and beverages could be a great step. A study found out that the caffeine that this stimulant has the capacity to delay the timing of your body clock. In addition, drinking caffeinated beverages 6 hours ahead of your bed hours may lessen you’re your total sleep by 1 hour.
Cutting down the amount of caffeine intake would be a good action to recover from sleep deprivation. More so toning down lighting your cigarette (quitting would be much better if possible). Puffing of cigarette is determined as one of the reasons why some have found it difficult to sleep since it contains nicotine.
Nicotine has stimulant contaminants that contributes to sleep problems. Quitting could be difficult, but most people who stopped admitted that they experience improvement in their sleep.
6. Set the ideal room environment.
This is not the issue of how big or how small your room is. Just make sure that your place is well-ventilated, has ideal temperature, and has a relaxing wall color. Also, the lighting of the room should be dim to signal the body that it is night time, and it needs to sleep.
And when it is daytime, let the sunlight pass through the window to signal your body that it is time to wake up.
7. Find or replace a comfortable bed and beddings.
Replace old mattresses and change the pillowcase and blanket every 1-2 weeks. Change the cushion, especially if it causes back pain.
Find a suitable pillow, not too soft, too big, nor too hard. This is to make sure that the place where you lay down is comfortable enough to foster uninterrupted sleep.
8. Exercise device distancing.
Removing smartphones and other gadgets near your bed could be a healthy one. The extra vacant time caused by the quarantine period has gotten people cooped up in their rooms, fixated in their phones and computers checking for updates on their social media accounts.
Others are watching movies and Netflix series for hours while some are in front of their gaming consoles playing with friends to alleviate boredom to the point that they forgot what time is it or sometimes they even forget to eat.
However, if all of these activities are done in the bedroom, chances are the body would not have the opportunity to distinguish the right time to sleep. It might mistake 1:00 am as the appropriate time to sleep, which what you must avoid due to the health risks mentioned by the sleep experts and doctors.
The bedroom should be strictly for sleeping. Make it a habit of watching movies series, and playing games during the day in another area like the living room.
Have the self-discipline to check social media accounts before going to bed and not while in bed. Once you lie down, fight the urge to verify your phone or laptop. If you are working and need to check emails, kindly inform your workmates that you do not check your phone at night, and you will respond to them during the day unless it is urgent.
Furthermore, do not make your phone as an alarm clock as it will tempt you to check your phone and watch random YouTube recommendations and look for memes. What you can do is to put a clock to tell time and to serve as an alarm.
Removing all gadgets near the bed ensures that stimulating activities will not make you stay up late all night.
9. Find relaxing hobbies and activities.
Instead of doing stimulating activities like playing online games, binge-watching Netflix series and movies, take the opportunity to do relaxing activities such as reading books, skimming magazines, crocheting, knitting, playing crossword puzzles and other mind games, etc.
Or, if you do not have any hobbies, why not try learning new skills and hobbies? Learn how to play an instrument, learn how to play chess or anything that calms you down.
Another option is to take a bath before sleeping.
10. Consult your doctor.
Finally, if you think that you did all of the suggested tweaks in lifestyle and you need sleeping pills, you may consult a doctor. The doctor will assess your situation.
It may be that your sleep deprivation is a symptom of a disease that you are not aware of. Then, he can prescribe the appropriate sleeping pills for you or recommend you to a sleep specialist.
In these uncertain times, it pays off to give enough attention to the needs of our bodies. In this case, a simple activity such as sleep may not be simple at all. The key here is to maintain a healthy sleeping habit.
Some of the suggestions to remember are avoiding afternoon naps, sticking to the desired sleeping schedule, avoiding eating too much or too little right before going to bed, exercising a few hours before sleeping for 20-30 minutes daily.
It is also a big favor to your body if you avoid taking alcohol, coffee, and smoking cigarettes. Setting your room to be an ideal space for sleeping by making sure that the room is well-ventilated, dim-lit, has comfortable beddings, cushions, and pillows will set up the mood for a sound sleep.
Also, removing all mobile devices, laptops, and computers as well as gaming consoles would greatly help in making sure that you are not doing any stimulating activity that would make you stay late at night.
Instead, you can do relaxing activities such as reading books and magazines, playing mind games, or even take a bath before sleeping. Finally, seeking the expert opinion of doctors and sleep specialists to your persistent sleep deprivation as they will assess your situation.