COVID-19 assaulted both our health and familiar ways of living. As a researcher in the fields of brain and mental wellness, I examine the effects of sleep deprivation. I couldn’t help but pay close attention to the ways in which the pandemic exacerbated this already prevalent issue. Lack of sleep and physical relaxation is a key focus in my practice and a main reason I created the BrainTap app. How often do we need four cups of coffee to get through the day? Crave sugary snacks? Snap at friends and family? Restless, easily triggered feelings can be caused by lack of sleep. We go to bed late, have difficulty relaxing, and pack more activities into each day. Our bodies and nervous systems break down, creating an unhealthy cycle of health issues and unhealthy behaviors, which I’m eager to help people learn to change.
One might assume working from home would encourage better sleep, but in reality, it skewed many further off-track. Uncertainty about the economy, mortgage payments, and homeschooling all created restless nights. How many of us log onto Instagram or Twitter as a tool to fall asleep? Electronic devices actually hurt our chances of a restful night’s sleep. Between the light being emitted interrupting our circadian rhythm and the influx of information we take in through a casual scroll our, brains awaken further than they already were.
For sleep to be effective, we require a consistent number of hours and optimally, the same sleep times. During the pandemic, daily routines were skewed, bedtime became inconsistent, and quality sleep was greatly affected. Consistency is critical. Our brains love patterns. Research shows your sleep pattern should be adhered to even on weekends, as even one day off schedule affects your next few nights. If you’ve been off-schedule because of COVID-19, this is the perfect time to get healthier.
In order to perform well during Zoom calls or returning to your socially distanced office, we need rest. These suggestions will get you back on track to healthy sleep, leading to healthier eating and stable moods.
- Consider an alternate location for your cell phone charging station. Your phone is constantly searching for signals and emits a burst of energy that wakes up the brain.
- Emotionally-charged television programs can be an obstacle to relaxation. Nightly news or a scary movie can invigorate your brain and emotions. Viewing these images will trigger the stress-hormone cortisol and activate the body’s fight-or-flight response, a state in which restorative sleep is nearly impossible to achieve.
- Curb eating to 2-4 hours before bedtime. Your body can’t enter deep levels of sleep if it’s busy digesting food.
- Curb alcohol before bedtime. Even one beer or a glass of wine will affect your brain and digestion for 4-6 hours, causing you to have inefficient sleep.
- Complete analytical activities earlier in the day. Balancing your checkbook or doing your taxes tends to spike a stress response, causing you to use more brain power.
- Dim your lights. Give your brain the environment or time to change gears and prepare for sleep at least two hours before sleep.
The last few months have been difficult for all and a source of stress and anxiety for many. Adjusting and bettering our sleep schedules and implementing relaxation techniques are both ways we can improve our health and focus for our work in the days ahead.
Patrick K. Porter, Ph.D., is an award-winning author and speaker who has devoted his career to neuroscience and brainwave entrainment. As the creator of BrainTap®, Dr. Porter has emerged as a leader in the digital health and wellness field. BrainTap’s digital tools and mind development apps use Creative Visualization and Relaxation, a biohacking technique that has made tremendous advances in helping mental, physical, and emotional health issues. BrainTap has been praised for helping people relieve symptoms associated with stress, insomnia, pain, and much more. For more information, visit: www.braintap.com