Sleep: A Key Health Factor During Times of Chaos

Balancing proper sleep with the stress of the pandemic

As medical professionals, we worry over patients in hospitals, offices, or over Zoom. COVID-19 has been incredibly stressful for frontline workers steeped in never-ending shifts. We attempt to keep our own families healthy, distanced, and within a ‘normal’ routine. We worry about everyone else, our needs taking a backseat to immediate problems. But what about our own health? With some of us essential and working through the crisis and others preparing for a return to work, how can we best prepare for the coming months? Healthy doesn’t just imply COVID-free, but a calm, well-rested body whose organs are in strong shape, housing a mind that responds rather than reacts to triggers. As a researcher in the fields of brain and mental wellness, I examine the effects of sleep deprivation and noticed the pandemic exacerbating this prevalent issue. Lack of sleep and physical relaxation is a key focus in my business and a main reason I created the BrainTap app. 

Without a solid night’s sleep we utilize crutches that worsen immediate problems and incite others. How often do we rely on four cups of coffee to manage the day? Crave sugary snacks? Snap at friends and family? Restless, easily triggered feelings can be caused by lack of sleep. Our profession is a difficult one to “turn off.” We go to bed late, have difficulty relaxing, and pack more activities, meetings, and calls into each day. As professionals, we know better. We understand the importance of taking care of ourselves, yet we push it more each day, thinking we can catch up on sleep, watch more television to relax, or drink extra cups of coffee. Before long, our bodies and nervous systems break down, creating an unhealthy cycle of health issues. 

Whether an essential worker or one who has quarantined, restless nights remain a factor. We often forget that electronic devices hurt chances of a restful night. How many of us log onto Instagram or Twitter as a tool to fall asleep? 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 to return 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 energy that wakes up the brain.
  • Emotionally-charged television programs can be problematic. Take a break from upsetting news or true crime shows that trigger the stress-hormone cortisol and activate the fight-or-flight response.
  • Curb eating 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. These require the brainwave known as beta, which tends to spike a stress response, causing you to use more brain power.
  • Dim the lights. Give your brain time to change gears and prepare for sleep two hours prior to lying down.
  • Also, don’t forget to try a warm bath or relaxing music before bed. An attitude of gratitude is a calming topic to consider while falling asleep. Based on our research at BrainTap, we’ve designed specific sessions that trigger deep sleep. Our users listen to the sessions at bedtime, which encourages a peaceful state of mind when waking. 

As health professionals, patients, co-workers, and family look to us for how to behave and what to believe. Unfortunately, those in our professions often put themselves last until we become fully sleep-deprived. Adjusting and bettering our sleep schedules and implementing relaxation techniques are proven ways to improve our health and focus for the days ahead. 


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