COVID-19 Pandemic and Circadian Rhythms

    June 10, 2020 | Counselor's Corner by Lisa Blackwood

    Millions of people suffered from insomnia before the coronavirus. When confronting the COVID-19 pandemic, sleep becomes even more essential because of its wide-ranging benefits for physical and mental health. While being isolated at home is important in order to reduce the impact of this virus in our communities, it is not ideal in taking care of circadian rhythms. Getting a good night’s sleep is a critical biological process, especially as the pandemic continues to cause mass disruption, uncertainty, and stress.

    It’s a good idea to prioritize sleep in general but especially during these extraordinary times. Sleep is critical to physical health and effective functioning of the immune system. It’s also a key promoter of emotional wellness and mental health, helping to address issues such as stress, depression, and anxiety.

    Unfortunately, the pandemic has created a host of new challenges even for people who previously had no sleeping problems. The disruption of daily life has exasperated sleep patterns by increasing anxiety and worry, depression and isolation, greater family and work stress, excess screen time and stress-related fatigue.

    Experts agree that getting consistent, high-quality sleep improves virtually all aspects of health, which is why it is worthy of our attention during the coronavirus pandemic. Sleep empowers an effective immune system, heightens brain function, and enhances mood. Sleep is critical to good psychological health and getting enough quality sleep is important as you try to manage the demands of this moment.
    In spite of the daunting challenges, there are a handful of steps that can promote better sleep.

    • Set your schedule as a routine for wake-up time, wind-down time and bedtime. Reserve your bed for sleep. This means that working-from-home is not working-from-bed or bringing a laptop into bed to watch a movie or series.
    • Take time to get daylight. Exposure to light plays a crucial role in helping our brain regulate sleep in a healthy way, having a positive effect on your circadian rhythm.
    • In the evening, keep lights dim and engage in calm, relaxing activities.
    • Be moderate in taking naps.
    • Stay active.
    • Practice kindness and foster connection.
    • Utilize relaxation techniques.
    • Avoid becoming overwhelmed by coronavirus-related news.
    • Be mindful of your food and drink intake.

    If these efforts don’t pay off immediately, don’t give up. It can take time to stabilize your sleep, and you may find that you need to adapt these suggestions to best fit your specific situation. Even if you’re not experiencing troubling falling asleep, ending the day in a calm relaxing way is bound to do some good anyway

    Lisa Blackwood MS MA LPC-S #19803 LCDC#4065 EMDR Certified

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