Anxiety, fear, screens: How to sleep well in times of Corona

The time when counting sheep or stars helped, or a good post-dinner walk made us tired enough to nod off over a late-night conversation, ended long ago.

 |  4-minute read |   13-05-2020
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Grandmother’s old tips to get good sleep don’t seem to be working for many in the new world hit by a virus that has triggered high levels of anxiety, fear and loneliness with most of us locked in our homes for several weeks now.

The time when counting sheep or stars helped, or a good post-dinner walk made us tired enough to nod off over a late-night conversation, ended long ago.

Instead, until a couple of months ago, it was about keeping those mobile phones away or switching the television off an hour before your head hit the pillow. Cut down on screen time, we were told, to manage the mind and sleep better. All that was before the virus hit and the world shut itself behind closed doors.

main_sleep_reuters_051220090736.jpgSome are not getting enough sleep, others don’t seem to be able to wake up. (Photo: Reuters)

Sleep patterns have gone for a toss since the Great Lockdown began, as young couples battle with small children without the usual help, cook, clean, do laundry and simultaneously work. Many are stuck in their homes all by themselves, shut away from the world with nobody to talk to, no one to provide physical and mental support. Life for them has shrunk into a screen filled with social-media apps that drive their days and nights. This can be particularly tough for them.

Some are not getting enough sleep, others don’t seem to be able to wake up. And the sheep? Well, they are just sitting around somewhere, munching grass in the lawns bereft of humans!

In the BC (Before Covid) world, life was relatively simpler. It all ticked along well through the workweek. Weekends meant going out, late nights and meeting people. There was also a fixed time for sleep until the world came to a cranking halt and quickly pushed up our anxiety, fear, and blood pressure. Stuck inside, many of us are battling new realities — very long working days since there is not much else to do; stressful, and sometimes abusive relationships, because there is no escape; battles over household chores, which many of us never cared about anyway.

Sleep deprivation in these times only makes matters worse, as lack of sleep impacts immunity, slows down our brain, lowers energy levels, makes us irritable, and also impacts our mental and physical wellbeing. We, therefore, need to make a real effort to learn to be able to shut our eyes and disconnect from the small world we inhabit these days — the space within the four walls of our homes that we once loved, but now probably hate since we can’t get out. We got to do it if only to remain sane.

What matters most is setting a routine. Try and deal with a work-from-home day as just another day at the office; break your day into well-defined segments and ensure you put the lights off at the appointed hour every night. All this needs a bit of discipline, but can be done if you put your mind to it. 

Make sure you also take regular breaks from your work schedule and treat the weekends as what they are — weekends. Don’t get pulled into the phone and video calls after a certain point as the evening sets; try and do whatever you did in your evenings otherwise. Read a book, which we usually don’t, and get off that phone or iPad that continually mesmerises us. Try and find some open space for a quick walk every day. If you don’t have access to a garden, a decent-sized balcony or a terrace, then create a walking space in the house.

The other day somebody put a Facebook post, saying he had successfully completed a marathon within his apartment. That’s like just over 42 km! I try to walk at least up to nine kilometres on my terrace, which is a rather pleasant experience with all kinds of birds chirping, before they head off home as night falls.

Walking also helps de-clutter the mind, pace out the thoughts, and makes you otherwise a bit more tired than you would feel if you spent the day sitting at your study table watching that computer. A bit of sweat and a shower is more than helpful to direct you towards your favourite pillow.

The best way for me, however, continues to be a book... Turning a few pages is just what the doctor has ordered for a good, sound, dreamless sleep. Tire yourself out, have a light dinner, and get that book which has been waiting for you in the bookshelf.

And sleep well...


Also read: 11 ways to help you sleep better


Rahul Sharma Rahul Sharma

Rahul Sharma is the Managing Director of APCO Worldwide, India. He constantly worries about whether his team is getting enough sleep in these strange times.

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