Wellness: Sleep experts share the best ways to cope with your lockdown insomnia
Sleep on time. Three words that are easier said than done — for a substantial number of people who never had insomnia troubles, until the lockdown that is. And for those who did, sleep experts tell us, it’s a whole lot worse. It’s no coincidence that the hashtag #cantsleep has been trending on Twitter since last month -—with people all over the world sharing posts on what’s keeping them up, suggesting slumber remedies and some even setting ambitious 3 am goals.
Founder and Director, Nithra Institute of Sleep Sciences in Chennai, Dr N Ramakrishnan attributes three simple reasons: inactivity, a lack of sunlight and raised anxiety levels with the COVID-19 pandemic at large. “It’s usually a combination of the three,” he shares with us. “So try and minimise whichever one you can, and is pertinent to your current lifestyle,” the American Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialist elaborates.
A sense of uncertainty and prevailing fear, however, seems to be the overarching factor that is keeping folks tossing and turning into the wee hours of the morning. For Dr Ramakrishnan, on the phone doing consultations, it is evident from patient concerns like ‘I am with my son in Bengaluru, but I left prescription back in Chennai’. With friends and family, you will recognise it in mild daily anxiety triggers such as ‘Has your salary come yet?’ or worse ‘I feel feverish. What if I have been infected?’
As for indicative numbers that reflect ‘an increase’ of sleep deprived citizens, doctors tell us the count remains ambiguous. “But the number of people having sleep problems has increased during this lockdown,” confirms D Prashant Chhajed, HOD, Respiratory Medicine, Hirandani Hospital, Vashi — a Fortis Network hospital in Navi Mumbai.
This is clear from frequent patient calls around sleep issues, conversations with their families and colleagues, as well as, the doctor points out, “the number of new patients complaining about difficulty sleeping at night”.
The key to sweet dreams, we are told, can be summed up in one word: routine.
Getting back on track
• Create a new quarantine routine, something that you are comfortable with. Try and maintain some resemblance from the pre-quarantine days. Routine will be the starting point for engaging with your natural circadian rhythm.
• Try to wake up and go to bed around the same time. Avoid napping in the day.
• Eat healthy timely meals, shower and change out of your nightwear.
• Avoid consuming caffeine post-noon as it is a known stimulant, which can influence one’s sleep by keeping us awake.
• Exercise should be non-negotiable. Get yourself moving, you’ll feel better, think more clearly, and sleep more soundly. Amid social-distancing mandates, you might not be able to work out in your preferred way. However, you can exercise
at home by doing yoga, dancing or aerobics. Choose what works best for you.
• Stop reading the news at night. We’re living in the middle of a rapidly evolving news story, but that doesn’t mean you need to be aware of what’s happening all of the time. Try and ensure that you have a corona-free period of at least an hour before bed.
• Distract yourself and give your mind and body a break. Try cooking something or reading your favourite book. The most important thing is to stop multiplying your fears.
Contributed by Bengaluru-based Dr Gowri Kulkarni, a specialist in family medicine and
adult psychological issues.
(With inputs from Farah Khatoon)