I can hardly sleep, I'm just thinking a lot about COVID-19. What can I do?

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

Getting good quality restorative sleep is important during a time like this, as sleep deprivation can make it more difficult to manage your emotions. Here are a few strategies that will hopefully help you to get some shut eye.

1. Exercise

For those who deal with chronic insomnia, moderate aerobic exercise has been proven as an effective sleep-aid: regular exercise has been shown to halve the average time it took to fall asleep, while also improving sleep quality and feelings of restedness in the morning.

2. Create a bedtime ritual

Try going to bed at a consistent time each night, choosing a relaxing activity or two (e.g. bath, reading, quiet time, meditation) as a lead-up to bedtime, and you might find that it helps you to wind down and go to sleep.

3. Limit use of electronics before bed

While they can seem like harmless activities, scrolling through social media can provide enough interest to keep you awake. With all of the news about Covid-19, you might find that being online makes you more anxious.

4. Schedule time for worry

This can sound counterintuitive, but when we are having anxious thoughts, we usually try to avoid them; we feel like we shouldn’t be worrying, or start telling ourselves stories to try to convince ourselves that we feel differently. But with this paradoxical technique, you are actually embracing your worries, and giving them less power. During your “worry appointment,” spend the whole time worrying about whatever problems are bothering you. Then, when your time is up, let it go. If you notice worries coming up while you are trying to sleep, remind yourself that you can get to them during your worry appointment tomorrow.

5. Give your mind something else to do

Instead of counting sheep, you might want to try out University of British Columbia researcher, Luc Beaudoin’s technique called the “cognitive shuffle.” To do this, when you are in bed, come up with a word that has no repeating letters. Then, think of words that start with each letter of the word. For example, if you came up with the word “plate,” you would first, come up with a list of words that start with “P,” then “L,” “A”, and so on. Apparently, this strategy is engaging enough that it gives your mind something to do instead of worrying, but not so exciting that it will get in the way of falling asleep. Try these techniques out, and see how they work for you!

Dr. Patricia Thompson

We're in this together.

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