The most difficult aspect about the Covid-19 pandemic are the many factors we cannot control (Minich & Hanaway, 2020). This can lead to anxiety and depression which can negatively affect sleep quality (Gualano et al., 2020).
Whilst we may not know how long the lockdown will last, or if and when a vaccine may be found, we can control lifestyle factors to help us manage stress levels, improve our coping ability and reduce our risk of disease, especially Covid-19 (Gualano et al., 2020; Yousfi et al., 2020).
People with co-morbidities such as cardiovascular disease, lung disease, diabetes and obesity are known to be at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 with often fatal consequences (Ali & Alharbi, 2020; Minich & Hanaway, 2020). What if we could put Covid-19 aside for just a second and consider how much healthier we would be as a community if we could concentrate on improving our health to reduce the risk of chronic illness such as cardiovascular disease?
During this pandemic, we have shut international and state borders, closed businesses and schools and withdrawn from our communities to be more home based for fear of being infected with Covid-19 but prior to this period, we seemed to find acceptable the number of people dying every year from chronic illness (Australian Government, Australian Institute of Health & Welfare 2020). In 2018, 10,269 men and 7,264 women died of coronary heart disease (Australian Government, Australian Institute of Health & Welfare 2020). Currently 583 people have died in Australia from Covid-19 since 22 January 2020 (Australian Government Department of Health, 2020).
It seems smart to actually focus on how as a community we can take control of lifestyle interventions in our own life that promote wellness to reduce the risk of chronic illness and consequently lower our probability of contracting viral conditions in the future (Gao & Scullin, 2020). This is a factor during this current pandemic we can control (Ali & Alharbi, 2020).
One of these key factors is a good night of sleep (Gao & Scullin, 2020). How many of us get the recommended 7-9 hours per night? (Althakafi et al., 2019; Yousfi et al., 2020). Some people have found the lock down period has improved their sleep duration as early morning routines such as getting up and travelling to work or school have gone, swapped with working from home and remote learning (Gao & Scullin, 2020).
Sleep is restorative and boosts our immune system health (Yousfi et al., 2020). Our love of social media and accessing news via smart phones or computers can increase anxiety and depression and negatively affect our ability to rest at night (Gualano et al., 2020; Holingue et al., 2020). This is particularly true for young adults (Gualano et al., 2020).
Even people who would not normally report mental health issues, are experiencing them during Covid-19 quarantine and lock down periods (Holingue et al., 2020). Those with existing mental health problems find these are exacerbated during Covid-19 (Holingue et al., 2020). Mediation, regular moderate exercise, and quality sleep can help counteract anxiety and depression and improve one’s mental health (Holingue et al., 2020; Yousfi et al., 2020).
Getting enough sleep sounds easy but if you or a loved one have been affected by loss of income, financial stress, and illness the subsequent concerns make resting at night more challenging (Holingue et al., 2020).
What can a person do to obtain a better night of sleep?
- Avoid using technology prior to bedtime and charge your device outside the bedroom overnight.
- Avoid scrolling through social media and news in bed as this can heighten anxiety and depression
- Reduce the amount of tea and coffee and other caffeinated drinks consumed especially in the evening
- Ensure the bedroom environment is quiet, cool, and dark.
- Set reminders about going to bed on time.
- Listen to a mediation App as you wind down for the night.
- Practice breathing techniques to reduce stress and anxiety prior to sleep.
- Keep in touch with the people in your life who make you happy as positive relationships and a feeling of social connectivity can enhance your sleep.
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
- Be kind to yourself. Even if you have concerns, remember that they will still be there in the morning. Allow yourself to take a mental break from your worries. With a clearer head in the morning, you may find your ability to cope and find solutions increases. If you are overwhelmed seek professional help from Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. They are open 24/7 to assist you.
Even though we are living in uncertain times, there are some clear certainties. Lifestyle choices such as regular moderate exercise, good nutrition, quality sleep and social connections can boost our immune system and help us be more resistant to chronic disease and viral infections (Holingue et al., 2020; Minich & Hanaway, 2020). Take control of what you can and limit worrying about the things you have no control of.
Ali, I., & Alharbi, O.M.L. (2020). COVID-19: Disease, management, treatment, and social impact. Science of the Total Environment, 728. https://doi/org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138861
Althakfai, K.A., Alrashed, A.A., Aljammaz, K.I., Abdulwahab, I.J., Hamza, R., Alhejaili, K.S. (2019). Prevalence of short sleep duration and effect of co-morbid medical conditions – A cross-sectional study in Saudi Arabia. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 8(10), 3334-3339. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_660_19
Beyond Blue. (2020). Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, 2020. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Australian Government Department of Health. (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19) current situation and case numbers, 2020. https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-current-situation-and-case-numbers#total-cases-recoveries-deaths-and-new-cases-in-the-last-24-hours
Australian Government, Australian Institute of Health & Welfare. (2020). Deaths in Australia, 2020. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia/contents/leading-causes-of-death
Gao, C. & Scullin, M.K. (2020). Sleep health early in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the United States: integrating longitudinal, cross-sectional, and retrospective recall data. Sleep Medicine, 73, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2020.06.032
Gualano, M.R., Moro, G.L., Voglino, G., Bert, F., & Siliquini, R. (2020). Effects of Covid-19 Lockdown on Mental Health and Sleep Disturbances in Italy. International journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(13). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17134779
Holingue, C., Badillo-Goicoechea, E., Riehm, K.E., Veldhuis, C.B., Thrul, J., Johnson, R.M., Falllin, M.D., Kreuter, F., Stuart, E.A., & Kalb, L.G. (2020). Mental distress during the COVID-19 pandemic among US adults without a pre-exisiting mental health condition: Findings from American trend panel survey. Preventative Medicine, 139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2020.106231
Minich, D., & Hanaway, P.J. (2020). The Functional Medicine Approach to COVID-19: Nutrition and Lifestyle Practices for Strengthening Host Defence. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 19, 54-62. https://www.ifm.org/news-insights/lifestyle-practices-for-strengthening-host-defense/
Yousfi, N., Bragazzi, N.L., Briki, W., Zmijewski, P., & Chamari, K. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic: how to maintain a healthy immune system during the lockdown – a multidisciplinary approach with special focus on athletes. Biology of Sport, 37(3), 211-216. https://doi.org/10.5114/biolsport.2020.95125