You toss and turn and try to figure out how to protect yourself. You scan through your monthly expenses in your mind and try to remember all the subscription plans that you are a part of. What can we cut? Who do we need to contact for a payment plan? Whose offering to suspend your payments until this is all over?
You never thought that you would be here and, now, everyone is here. Businesses are closed and 1/3 of the country is out of work. You can no longer send money back home because you don’t know how long this is going to last. No wonder you can’t sleep.
Whether you are having trouble sleeping because of finances, illness, or a family crisis, right now, anxiety is at an all-time high nationally.
But you still need to sleep. Sleep is important because it helps you stay healthy during a pandemic and it helps you to make strategic decisions during this time because you gave your mind a break and chance to recharge.
Here are some strategies if you are having difficulty falling asleep.
Take some time to reflect on what you are eating and drinking during the day. When we are under stress we tend to go to foods that give us comfort, coffee being one of them. While our schedules may be different and we are under more stress from this world health crisis, if you are eating or drinking anything with caffeine later in your day, it most likely will affect your sleep in some way.
Give yourself a cut off time for all beverages or foods that contain caffeine. Remember that decaf coffee also contains caffeine, just to a lesser extent than regular coffee.
Start a Nighttime Routine
If you haven’t already, create a nighttime routine. When you create a routine and stick with doing it regularly, it will act as a signal to the body that it’s time to turn down and disconnect.
If you say you’re not a routine person, challenge yourself to do it. You don’t need to be perfect when you start it. Just keep trying. Humans love routines and structures. We just don’t like to brag about it to the public because it just doesn’t seem sexy to say you went to bed at 8pm.
You’re routine does not need to be rocket science nor does it need to be extremely detailed. Give yourself a start time for when you are going to begin preparing for bed and put an alarm on your phone so that every night you are reminded to start turning down for the day.
Give yourself at least thirty minutes before you want to sleep to go into your routine to prepare for bed.
Say No to Blue Light and Screen Time
When you are in your routine avoid using screens especially with blue light. The blue light from your electronics tends to affect your brain and does not allow your mind to relax as well as it did without it.
If you have a nighttime setting that will turn off the blue light and notifications on your phone or other devices, use it. Your electronics stimulate your mind and you won’t be able to sleep if you continue to get those notifications from the New York Times and the Washington Post.
When the nighttime setting automatically turns off in the morning you will get all of the notifications that you had received during the night. Don’t worry. You will not have missed anything at all.
Believe it or not, exercise actually helps with sleep. Somewhere in your day put between 20-30 minutes of exercise between three and four times a week. If you are having sleep issues due to anxiety or nervousness, exercise is extremely helpful as well. Exercise allows you to expend that extra energy and forces to focus on what is essential instead of every single possible outcome that may or may not happen that comes to mind.
If you have never exercised, remember to start slow. You are trying to create routines and habits to help you emotionally cope and manage your environment so you can sleep well. If you exercise too hard, in the beginning, most likely you won’t physically be able to exercise the next day due to soreness.
Exercise also does not need to be done at a gym. There are a bunch of apps out there that provide workout classes and routines. Check out YouTube as well for videos. You can do this!
Creating a Sacred Place
Your bedroom or the place where you sleep in your studio should be a sacred place for you to sleep. Avoid doing other activities such as reading, watching movies, or doing work while you are in bed.
If you can help it, make sure to not have a TV in your room. Your main goal to accomplish if you are having problems sleeping is that you actually sleep in your bed. So whatever assists you with sleeping, then that can be in your room. If it’s to study for an exam or complete something for work, then you are veering away from your mission. Do that in a different room or part of your apartment. This way when you complete your nighttime routine, it will feel easier to go to sleep when you put your head down on your pillow.
It Won’t Be Perfect Overnight
If you are trying to make quality sleep a priority right now remember that it won’t be perfect overnight. The key is consistency when it comes to a good night’s sleep. Be consistent about eating well and staying away from caffeine when it gets later in the day, try exercising a little bit more, stay away from things that are going to activate you right before bed like your phone, and try to create a nighttime routine so you send your body a message that it’s time for bed.
It’s easy during this time to get caught up in all the what if’s. When you find yourself ruminating in such a way, name it and bring yourself back to the present moment. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your journey to quality sleep won’t be built in a day either.
Give yourself time and be open to a new way of doing things consistently that could help you sleep better.
When the What-if’s are Too Much
If you feel like you have tried all these for a while and it is just not working. It may time to speak with a professional mental health clinician to talk to about your anxiety and how it is disrupting your life and your sleep. There is nothing wrong with consulting with someone about this. And, remember, most services are being offered more and more online due to the pandemic and that would include therapy.
And By the Way!
My name is Tara. I am a therapist who provides online counseling services in the state of Illinois. This blog post is not therapy and it should not be used as a substitute for therapy. If you would like to talk more, you can schedule a free 15-minute consultation, click here!