The coronavirus pandemic has brought immeasurable stress to people in New Jersey and throughout the United States, and it is keeping a lot of people awake at night.
Along with the health risks associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, the financial instability and changed daily routines are added stress that can affect sleep, says Dr. Joshua Tal, a New York/Bergen County-based clinical psychologist who specializes in insomnia.
“I’ve definitely seen an increased need for sleep therapy during this time,” Tal said. “(The pandemic) does seem to indirectly lead to heightened stress and thus heightened instances of disturbed sleep. … There are a whole lot of ways this is affecting people’s sleep, and it’s unfortunate because a lot of it is out of people’s control.”
The biggest change Tal recommends is making sure your bed is a sleep sanctuary.
When quarantined at home for long stretches, the temptation is there to spend much of the day laying in bed. That should be avoided, Tal says, adding the only time in bed should be to sleep.
And if you find yourself tossing and turning at night, worrying about the coronavirus and the stress it brings, the best thing to do is get up and move around.
“You want to purify the bed environment and experience so when you’re in bed, you’re sleeping,” Tal said. “One of the biggest causes of insomnia is associating the bed with worrying.”
There are several products out there that tout the ability to help you fall asleep.
Tal does not endorse or recommend any product but did point out that sleep is an area where the placebo effect has shown success.
“They’ve done a lot of studies that show placebos are good for sleep,” he said. “Essentially, they’re giving you permission to sleep and acknowledging you did something about it.”
So, that means that while those products like the Dodow, melatonin pills, white noise machines, eye masks and weighted blankets may not medically make a difference, they could have an impact on your mind, allowing you to sleep better.
Acceptance of the new reality also can help people sleep better, Tal says.
COVID-19 is not going away any time soon. Understanding the threat, taking the proper precautions and adjusting habits accordingly is key to catching sleep.
“At the moment, people are going to have to accept there are going to be big changes instead of fighting them and feeling like there is a need to run away and hide from this,” Tal said.
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