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Covid-19 and Sleep: How can my Family Maintain Healthy Habits?

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With so many disruptions to our usual routines during this long pandemic, it is understandable for our sleep habits to suffer.  We have less structured days, more screen time, closed gyms and less exercise, and we’re staying at home and indoors much more.  These and many other challenges threaten healthy sleep, one of the most important components of good health, which impacts every other part of our day, from mood, concentration, memory, how we feel and function, and our immune system.  Here are some aspects of sleep hygiene to consider in order to achieve healthier sleep.

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.  This is one of the most important and most challenging goals to maintain.  Keep your sleep and wake times as consistent as possible.   Keep your work/ school schedule as consistent as possible.  Avoid naps (or at least keep them shorter than 30 minutes, and early in the day).  Prioritize sleep and get enough for your body.  Find out how much sleep is needed at each age with Sleep Advisor’s handy chart.

Start your day with sunshine.  Bright light keeps the brain’s circadian clock on schedule and is a very powerful way the body wakes itself.  If you can’t get outside, at least open the blinds and curtains and soak up the sun through a window.

Make time to exercise.  With gyms closed and many outdoor recreational options restricted, exercise routines have suffered.  Schedule it into your day, get outside if possible, exercise early in the day (and avoid it within 2 hours of bedtime), and get moving.  It’s a great stress reliever, mood booster, and it improves sleep quality that night.

Turn off screens an hour before bedtime.  The blue light from TV’s, computers screens and other devices keeps us awake.  Our brains interpret it as though the sun is still up.  Instead, read a book, do an old-fashioned crossword, listen to a podcast, or use a guided meditation (there are a ton of great apps to choose from) to ready yourself for a good night’s sleep.

Sky Pittson, MD,  March 3, 2021