The Importance of Sleep
Aside from the well known repercussions of COVID-19, it appears as though the coronavirus has impacted another facet of our lives: our quality of sleep.
Before the current pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately one in three US adults do not get the recommended amounts of sleep.
The American Journal of Managed Care reported the following results of a recent survey assessing sleeping habits in quarantine:
"53% indicated they spend less time sleeping than before the pandemic
67% believe their sleep was healthier before the beginning of lockdown
98% have developed new sleep problems post-lockdown
68% feel stress or find it hard to sleep, even after lockdown measures were lifted"
Stressors, (such as the virus, economic concerns, and recent protests), appear to have worsened our sleeping habits.
At this point, you might be asking yourself: "I'm healthy and I feel okay with little sleep. Why should I care?"
Although many of us may feel as though we can get by without the recommended amounts, evidence points to the long-term repercussions associated with sleep deprivation.
According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, sleep is critical for our emotional health, immune system, as well as proper brain function. Poor sleeping habits can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, obesity, and even weaken our immune systems. Sleep deprivation can affect our work, our ability to learn, as well as our relationships.
It’s clear that there is evidence suggesting that sleep is important for physical, mental, and emotional health. What are the recommended amounts of sleep?
The recommended amounts of sleep vary depending on age. Keep in mind, according to this source, adolescents and older adults may face additional difficulties in falling and staying asleep. The table below features the recommended amounts from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:
For those of you looking to improve the quality of your sleep, there are strategies that may be able to help.
In the midst of the pandemic, the American Sleep Association suggests the following strategies to promote a more efficient sleep:
"Take a warm bath: A warm bath may ease muscle soreness. It is also a nice way to relax before trying to sleep.
Go to sleep a little earlier: Now is not the time to skimp on sleep. Try to get another hour or two of sleep each night. Also, if you need a nap during the day, take one.
Use a humidifier: Place a cool-mist humidifier in your room to add moisture to the air. The increased moisture may help decrease congestion and ease coughing.
Elevate your head: If you have congestion, placing a few pillows under your head to prop yourself up may decrease stuffiness.
Create the right environment: The right environment helps promote sleep regardless of whether you are sick or not. But since getting enough rest helps your immune system, it is even more important to get the sleep you need. Most people sleep best in a dark and quiet environment that is not too warm.
Relax before going to sleep: With all the current uncertainty in the world, it can be hard to quiet your mind. But taking some time before you try to sleep to relax is helpful. Put aside your phone and log off social media. Instead, find something that helps you unwind, such as listening to music, reading, or doing deep breathing exercises."
It’s easy to find ourselves neglecting these basics, but it’s important to get enough sleep every night. Improving sleeping habits will permit for a healthier and happier you, and a more productive tomorrow.