Have you found your set sleep and wake routine becoming blurred? You are not alone.
Before I started working from home, I had a rather strict sleep routine. During the week I went to bed no later than 10.30 pm and woke up at 8 am. In the morning I would get up, get ready for work and leave by 8.40 am. Now, no two days are the same. Some nights I do go to bed at 10, others its 2 am. In the mornings, I can be awake at six or struggle to pull myself out at 8.55 to sign on to the system for 9 am. The days I have to force myself out of bed I spend in a confused haze, usually in nightwear and a cardigan.
The days and nights blur, and as it is light until almost 9, it is hard to shift to night mode. Add to that the constant anxiety and negative press at every turn, I shouldn’t be surprised I’m finding routine tough, but I am. And I am not alone either.
Over the past couple of months, millions have moved to work from home to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. For many, the experience has profoundly impacted their routines.
“I sometimes wake up at 4, or 5 am even if I go to bed at 11 or 12, and I’m busy homeschooling three small children,” my friend said during a video call as she made dinner for her family. She went on to say that other days her children come in to wake her, which can be anytime from 6-10 am! “I sometimes just lay there in bed for hours unable to fall asleep.”
They note that even those that are used to working remotely or even from home are struggling. New challenges such as having their partner or children around, not being able to go outside, stress and anxiety about the constant influx of negative news and worries about family and friends are making things harder.
Managing these stressors has led people to stay up later or snacking at odd times. These are normal responses, but they do wreak havoc on the circadian rhythm-the process that regulates the natural sleep-wake cycle.
When I told a therapist that I’ve been doing just that-sleeping later in the morning to compensate for late nights, I was told not to do this. The therapist said to me that within a week, you’d be used to this pattern, so it is better to get up at your regular time. They advised to avoid napping and nighttime news (to avoid extra stress/worry) and to exercise in the morning sun as it gives energy.
Sunlight is key to sleep
Sunlight is the number one factor that affects our circadian rhythm. It lets our body know when to wake up and go to sleep, so being inside all of the time can disrupt the signals. Food also plays a part, so if you have been snacking more than usual close to bedtime, it can also play a role in why you are having a harder time going to sleep.
Above all, hold on to whatever normalcy you can. Eat, sleep, shower, work, exercise as you did before Coronavirus. If you live with others, try to get them to follow the same routine so that you aren’t all fighting different zones of the day/night.
If you are struggling, reach out. You can speak to one of our therapists for free. Contact us here, and we will put you in touch with someone.
Remember, you cannot control the virus, how long you have to stay at home, the news or the economy. But you can control when you sleep and wake, how you manage your day and what you do with those negative feelings. Control what you can, keep an open dialogue and don’t be hard one yourself if something doesn’t go quite to plan.