The novel coronavirus broke out in December 2019, and just within months, it has enveloped the entire world as a pandemic. The deadly virus has infected a total of 2,496,999 people worldwide and killed 171,241 of them. Since scientists are still working on a vaccine to cure the virus, several countries have enforced nationwide lockdowns to control its spread.
In India, the lockdown was announced almost a month ago, on March 25, and for the time being, will continue until May 3. While we don’t know how long it will be until our lives can resume normally, we do know that it is affecting our mental and physical well being.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatry Society, there has been a sudden rise in those suffering from mental illness–cases are now up by 20 percent. This is because humans are social beings and they thrive on social connection. Being confined to our homes is making a lot of us feel anxious, overwhelmed and craving for social interaction. One major side effect of anxiety is the lack of sleep, and a lot of people are reporting a lack of sleep during this time. If you are also having trouble sleeping, here a few reasons why that might be happening.
As boring as it may sound, human beings thrive on routine. Prior to the lockdown, most of our days would have some sort of structure–involving a morning routine, going to work, interacting with colleagues, running errands around the city or doing chores. Ever since we’ve been confined to our homes, any semblance of a routine has gone out the window. We might be waking up later or going to bed at odd hours. Our eating patterns might have been disrupted. However, according to experts, our body clock is highly dependant on consistency–i.e following a structure and waking and sleeping at fixed times.
How to fix it: While we may understand it might be impossible to go back to your usual routine, experts encourage people to stick to a structure to the best of their abilities. Don’t blur the lines between work and play. Set aside time for different activities, and most importantly, go to bed and wake up at fixed hours.
Also Read: How To Sleep Quickly
On a regular day, we tend to consume media on a controlled basis–we may browse through social media during our commute to work or during breaks, watch the news or scroll through twitter in the evening and end the night with an episode of our favourite show. However, given that we are going through a deadly pandemic, we are more likely to consume a lot more media. Some of us might be obsessively checking the news every few hours to keep up with the death toll–which can lead to acute anxiety. Others might be spending more time on social media as a means of escape, while some might be binge-watching their favourite web series till the wee hours of the morning. However, not only is the overconsumption of media bad for your physical and mental health, it also affects your sleep cycle.
How to fix it: Try to return to your old patterns of media consumption. Set limits for yourself and stick to them. Watch the news for 15 minutes after you wake up and another 15 before you go to sleep. Set a social media limit on your phone for an hour every day. When it comes to online streaming, just pretend that the ‘watch next’ button doesn’t exist.
During this lockdown, not all of us might have the luxury of social isolating in a large house with several rooms. Some of us might be confined to a single room, while others might have to share their space with others. Using the same surrounding for multiple activities–like eating, sleeping, and working–can affect your sleeping patterns. It can be tempting to sit in bed and work in the morning or read a book in bed during the day when you have some free time, research has shown that these habits can be very detrimental towards your sleep.
How to fix it: If you have the option, step into your bedroom only when you are ready to go to bed at night. Use other rooms for work and recreation. If you do not have access to multiple rooms, try your best to stay away from your bed. Working at a table is a great option. If possible, step out for a short stroll around your locality for a change of scenery.
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On a regular basis, we tend to be a lot more active throughout the day–from walking to the metro station, working out at a gym or running errands. With our access to outdoor spaces being limited, our activity levels have reduced. It is important to note that physical activity helps a great deal to tire out our body by consuming calories, which makes it easier for us to fall asleep. With reduced physical activity, our body finds it hard to feel drowsy because it is dealing with a lot of unconsumed energy.
How to fix it: There is only one way to fix this problem–make sure you work out at home. While it might not be as fun or engaging as going to the gym, exercising will keep you mentally and physically fit, while burning off excess calories and tiring out your body.
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We urge everyone to take their sleeping patterns seriously and try these hacks if you’re having trouble falling asleep. However, if your insomnia persists, it is best to reach out to a mental health professional.
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