What to do if quarantine has messed up your sleep schedule

It isn't news that our schedules have been turned upside down since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Many of us have been adjusting to working at home, learning at home, entertaining ourselves at home, and keeping up with current events from home. But all of that change and stress can have a major effect on one thing we usually expect to do at home: sleep.

Annie Miller, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist, told Byrdie, "Being inside more and having less exposure to sunlight affects our circadian rhythm. Many of us are missing out on these cues as we stay inside so much of the time." Further, the National Sleep Foundation notes that we have also drastically increased the time we spend looking at screens thanks to remote work, scrolling through our phones, and those late-night quarantine Netflix binges. None of this is good for our sleep habits.

According to the CDC, the average adult needs roughly seven hours of sleep per night. What's more, sleep deprivation has been linked to multiple physical and mental issues, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression, also per the CDC. That's why finding a way to realign our sleeping habits is especially important during a time when we are all more focused on staying healthy. 

Fortunately, there are some solutions we can employ to get back on track and resting more peacefully.

Improve your sleep schedule by eliminating distractions

The first tip is to reserve your bed for sleeping only. In other words: no Zoom calls, no helping kids with homework, no bill-paying or list-making. Your bed should be your sanctuary. Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach, says that you shouldn't even bring your phone to bed with you. "Discontinue the use of your phone at least 45 minutes prior to going to bed, and charge all devices in another room. When you come into your room for bed, clean up the room and close all closet doors. Our minds tend to race with clutter, keeping the room tidy will help you relax," he says (via Byrdie). 

He also suggests keeping the room as dark and cool as possible and investing in a white noise machine to help eliminate distracting sounds and help you drift off more quickly and soundly.

Improve your sleep schedule by setting your alarm clock

The second important tip is to go to bed and wake up at the same time each night, whether a weekday or weekend. We know this one is tough anytime, but especially during quarantine. According to the National Sleep Foundation, without "anchors" like adults returning from work and kids returning from soccer practice at a certain time, it can be easy to let things like waking and sleeping times go out the window. Instead, being strict about committing to a regular wake/sleep time can help us get back into a healthier routine.

And if this isn't exactly easy for you, don't worry; adjustments take time. Be gentle on yourself. As Fish reiterates: "When changing your sleep schedule, it will take some time, so we recommend gradually changing your schedule by no more than 15 minutes per day to allow your mind and body to adjust." While waking early on a Saturday or not scrolling through Instagram for an hour before falling asleep may not come naturally to us at first (cat videos!), hopefully after a bit of adjustment, we can get the better rest we need to help keep ourselves and our families healthy and happy.