COVID-19 has been a stressful time for all. Everyone has had to adjust to new ways of life, and with the uncertainty of the course of the virus, it can be even more difficult to navigate life and try to maintain as much normalcy as possible. But what even is normalcy? It is being redefined everyday, making it hard to come up with a routine and reduce stress levels and meet basic needs including 7-8 hours of sleep. Continue reading to find out more about stress and how we can all live better lives.
Stress' Affect on Our Bodies
Stress affects our sleep. Our collective stress level has reached new heights, and some are so stressed out about COVID-19 that they struggle to make basic decisions. The stress of COVID-19 seeps into every part of our lives, and can feel almost too overwhelming to handle. Our stress comes home with us, affects our relationships with loved ones and our ability to sleep.
Moderate amounts of short-term stress may pose a low risk for our health, chronic stress can have a major impact on our bodys and cause insomnia, among other health issues. When we experience a stressful event, our bodies respond physiologically by releasing the stress hormone, cortisol. This is known as our fight-or-flight response where we either want to fight off the danger or run away from it. While this response evolved to protect us from survival threats early in evolutionary times, our survival instinct remains today.
Today's stressors are everywhere. COVID-19 poses health risks while financial hardships threat our food and shelter. News on the TV can also pose constant risk and all of these stressors trigger our stress response at a more consistent level than originally intended. This stress can then negatively impact our sleep because we're missing the feeling of safety when we lay down our heads at night.
Chronic Stress and Uprooted Sleep
The pandemic messed up a lot of schedules because schools closed and many workers went remote. We lost our routines and had to learn new ones. The rhythm of our day was thrown off because we could sleep in, stay in our pajamas all day, and not go outside once. There was nothing normal about our new normal and our bodies were not used to this abrupt stop in a schedule.
At home life last way longer than what anyone else expected and we tried to adjust to pandemic life. Vaccines gave the hope of turning the corner, but the slow and uneven roll out led to the development of variants which continue to pose a threat even to those who are protected with the vaccine. Our brains cannot trust the world as being safe, and this can negatively disturb our sleep.
The inability to sleep, even though we have more time than ever to establish that routine, plus the daytime impairments set the stage for insomnia. Some people may have short-term insomnia that goes away when stress subsides, but others risk developing chronic insomnia. Pandemic-related insomnia is known as coronasomnia.
Relationship issues turn into sleep issues
Home can be a safe haven, but it can also be where we sit with our stress. This can impact the dynamics of the home and the relationships with loved ones. Many couples and families have had heightened conflict during the pandemic. Many of the reasons of the tension and conflict can cause the home to feel as unpredictable as the rest of the world. When we experience this conflict with loved ones, it can negatively impact our sleep. Then we may not be able to recharge like we need to in order to mend those relationships and have smoother interactions with loved ones.
How to get better sleep and reduce stress
It's essential that in a world of unpredictability, your sleep is not unpredictable. By establishing some great wellness strategies to help reduce your stress during the day, you can improve your sleep and start to feel more in control of things that happen inside and outside the house.
Well of wellness
One way to do this is to create a "well of wellness". This encourages people to do small acts for themselves and others that foster a sense of positivity and peace. This reserve of positivity is like a well that we can access when the stress of the day depletes us.
Whether we send a message to others, spend time with children, show affection to spouses, it's a mindful way to show kindness and patience towards others which can help reduce the tension they are feeling individually and within the household.
Make sleep a family value
It's also important to make sleep a family value. Children do what they see, not what they are told. So if you tell your children that sleep is important, but you yourself don't sleep, then you are not demonstrating what you're saying, leading to a potential disconnect about just how important sleep is.
Parents can demonstrate the importance of sleep by keeping electronics out of the bedroom, maintaining consistent bedtimes, integrating mindfulness practices like reading or meditation into their evening routines and advocating for healthy school start times.
Daily reflection wind down
This wind down technique involves talking to another person and sharing the best and worst parts of the day, a low point of the day and a compliment to the other person. It fosters reflection, connection and kindness right before bed, especially if someone has had a long day and could use that space to talk with someone about it.
This can be applied to children to as well and can be useful in fostering a relationship between parents and children. This is one of the primary ways that parents can drive a sense of safety and security in their relationship with their children.
If you are having difficulty sleeping, and are unsure of the cause or don't see any improvement with the above techniques, then please click the orange button below to take a free online sleep test and talk with one of our professionals. Sleep is important and we can help you improve your relationship with it.