If Quarantine Life Is Affecting Your Ability to Sleep, You’re Not Alone

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The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 is surely history in the making. The outbreak across the world has caused everyone to succumb to a new level of “normalcy” for pretty much everything—work, school, even taking in the mail (hello, gloves, and hand sanitizer).

In addition, the outbreak may actually be negatively affecting your sleep. If you’ve had extra trouble falling asleep at night or toss and turn in the middle of the night trying to get back to sleep, you’re not alone. There may actually be such thing as “quarantine insomnia.”

Under normal circumstances, anxiety can cause poor quality sleep. So it makes sense that during a pandemic, you’re facing some more anxiety than usual, and therefore aren’t sleeping well.

The problem is, insomnia, while it happens at night, can affect our entire day—we wake up groggier than usual, we’re crankier, craving more junk food, and worse: it suppresses our immune system so we may be more likely to get sick (not ideal in the middle of a global health crisis).

Additionally, if you as an adult aren’t getting adequate sleep, kids probably aren’t either. In fact, experts say that because parents are lacking so much energy when it comes to bedtime, kids may be staying up later and also not doing themselves any favors when it comes to their mental or physical health.

“Parents are just overwhelmed by the arguing, or they’re overwhelmed by the time management,” says psychologist and author, Alicia Clark, PhD. “It’s really hard to keep a structure when you’re doing it all yourself. The parents are in the weeds of homeschooling and working. I mean they are exhausted at the end of the day and it takes energy to do this last hurdle of getting your kids to bed. It’s super important, but it can be really hard.”

So how do you and your kids get more sleep at a time like this? Dr. Clark has some tips.

For adults, Dr. Clark says it’s good to try and distract yourself from the realities of what’s going on, since more than likely you’re not sleeping because you’re anxious about it all.

“Count backward by three or seven from 200, just very gently count backward to keep your mind loosely focused but not totally taxed,” she suggests. “The trick is to get your mind engaged enough that it’s not racing, it’s not spinning into thoughts that can bring anxiety.”

When it comes to the kids, it’s all about trying to keep as much of a routine as possible. Try setting up a fresh bedtime schedule for each day: Taking a bath, reading a bedtime story, and having a kiss goodnight will do.

It would also be good to ensure the kids are getting in some physical activity during the day, if possible. Now that the weather is getting warmer, let them run around outside, expending all their energy during the day so they sleep better at night.

Even older teenagers who aren’t sleeping well could benefit from having some kind of routine, Dr. Clark says. Perhaps for their routine, you limit screen time an hour or so before they need to hit the hay. Light from phones and other screens can stimulate the mind, making you even more awake.

We wish you all the happy zzzs!

Have you been struggling with quarantine insomnia during the coronavirus pandemic? What have you done that has helped so far?