The global pandemic is keeping lots of us up through the night. It’s a new world. For most of us, insomnia’s a normal result.
But good sleep improves immune response. The body resets immunologically in sleep. One famous study out of UCSF showed people who on AVERAGE slept 6 hours or less had far more colds.
If coronavirus is keeping you up at night, what can you do? Based on what I’m seeing in patients, here are a few restdoctor suggestions:
- Turn off the late night news. Unless you need to know things for your job, the news will be still there in the morning. If national news excites or inflames you too much, consider getting American news from foreign sources like dw.com (German World News) or news.bbc.co.uk (BBC).
- Go on an “Electronic Diet”. An hour before your normal sleep time, turn off social media, TV, all the bright lights that shift our internal clocks and keep us up at night.
- Write a worry list with your evening meal, all the stuff that’s bugging you. Next, write down what you can do to improve things. Keep it short, the plans concrete stuff you know is possible. If there’s something you really can’t control, consider items on the list you can improve. Studies show this simple plan helps people sleep.
- If you wake in the middle of the night, and can’t get back to sleep, don’t fret. That’s happening to millions of people every night. If you can’t get back to sleep in 10-15 minutes, try moving out of bed and either A. Read a book that takes you far away (biographies, art history, poetry, etc.) B. Try talking books C. 12th-16th century music (we’re not used to those sounds anymore so they can help lull us to sleep) D. Rest and meditation techniques; there are thousands from yoga to paradoxical relaxation (my book “The Power of Rest” has a few dozen,) but just remembering your best hike ever or imagining swimming with iridescent tropical fish might do.
- Keep to regular sleep and wake times. Regular circadian, internal body clock rhythms translate into more effective immunity.
- If you can, exercise outside in nature come morning. People who walk in the AM get less colds, and less severe ones.
- Come the day, move when you can. More physical activity has an appreciable effect on getting night-time sleep.
- Try naps. If you’re sleepless at night, you don’t want long naps, and you want them in the circadian favorable period fo 1230-430, when naps won’t terribly affect night-time sleep. If you’ve never napped, just lie down in a comfortable place, put a night mask or a washcloth over your eyes to stop light, put your head on a pillow and allow 20-30 minutes on a timer to rest. Many people fall into stage 1 sleep and think they have not slept but have. Just look on this time as a chance to rest and restore.
We need sleep like food. We can’t live without it. Good sleep makes us less susceptible to coronavirus.
And that makes everyone else less susceptible as well.