Sleep is important for a strong immune system and well-being, but is the stress of the COVID-19 situation making it hard to get enough?
A message from Dr. Shannon McDonald, FNHA Deputy Chief Medical Officer
With everything that's going on right now you're not alone if you're finding it difficult to relax and get a good night's sleep. Yet it's never been more important to have the strongest immune system possible, and sleep is one of the major ways to ensure this.
Why sleep is so important for our health
Sleep is important to our health and wellness – so important in fact, that it's right up there with eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and being connected with a positive community of people! As we sleep, we process memories and emotional experiences, replenish energy, and clear toxins. As a result, our brains work better and we have better judgement, more self-control, and enhanced creativity. We can also be more patient and positive, and be better able to manage our moods and emotions. These are all traits that lead to better relationships and happier, more stable lives.
Unfortunately, however, during times of anxiety and monumental change – like we're experiencing these days – some people will have trouble getting enough deep, restorative sleep. And not getting enough sleep lowers our immune system and raises our risk for many diseases. So, while it may be harder to sleep – we need our sleep more than ever.
10 tips for getting enough sleep
1) Stick to a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule, even if you don't have to be up at a particular time right now. Getting morning light and following a routine helps keep our bodies regulated. Use alarms if you find them helpful. Having a bed- time routine is one of the main habits to follow to get a good night's sleep. Whenever I can, at 9:30 p.m. I head to bed to read for about 30 minutes. My dog joins me for a snuggle and settles down to sleep at my feet. I always have an overhead fan on, and keep the room cool. When hubby and our other dog join us, it's lights out. No critical discussions. No phones, iPads, or TV in the room. I usually wake before the alarm at 6 a.m.
2) Avoid using your devices before your bedtime. This is not just to avoid stimulating news or emails before bed, although that's important. It's also to avoid the blue light that screens emit. This light interferes with the sleep hormone melatonin.
3) Make sure your room is very dark, without device lights.
4) Avoid stimulating substances too close to bedtime (caffeine within seven hours, alcohol within three hours, and nicotine within three or four hours).
5) Exercise during the day (but not right before bed).
6) Keep your bedroom cool. Wear socks if your feet are cold. Or, if you're too hot even with your fan, try slathering lotion all over your body; this usually works for me.
7) Avoid napping during the day (only take a very short - 20-minute – nap if necessary.
8) Do some light stretching.
9) Practise relaxation and mindfulness meditation exercises.
10) Get ready for bed well before you plan to turn off the light. I realized that sometimes, paradoxically, I felt too tired to get ready for bed, so I just stayed up later. Now I try to wash my face, put on my pajamas, and brush my teeth well before I plan to go to sleep.
We know that the average adult needs between six and eight hours of sleep every night. But only you know how much sleep you need to function and feel well, so if you want to ensure your sleep habits are helping keep your immune system strong, determine the bedtime that works best for you, try out these tips, and stick to your personal sleep routine. Sweet dreams!