The coronavirus pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways, disrupting both our professional and personal routines. This major upset has left many people stressed, worried, and some lacking in good, quality sleep, which is a critical component of overall physical and mental health. While trying to maintain a normal sleep routine during these times is difficult, it is going to become critical for both parents and children as they head into the fall.
Summit Medical Group Pulmonologist and Director of Outpatient Sleep Services Dr. Alison Kole says, “One of my biggest observations since the onset of the pandemic is the loss of a weekday routine and schedule, which has had a detrimental impact on well-being.”
Whether your kids are heading back to school full time, part time, or preparing for some more long days at home, getting back to a healthy sleep schedule will produce a multitude of health benefits. Below, Dr. Kole provides six tips to help you and your child get some much-needed shut eye.
- Exercise for better sleep.
Commit to exercising during the day. Many who are working from home are spending hours sitting in front of a computer. This includes children who had been or will be once again participating in remote learning. Exercise can help stabilize mood and decompress the mind, which is important for sleep. But be sure to keep intense exercise to a minimum for at least three hours leading up to bedtime.
- Wake up at the same time each morning.
Working from home and schooling from home has eliminated that dreaded commute. However, not having to get up as early has led to a poor habit of staying up late. Although sleep needs vary, a normal range for adults is between 6 and 9 hours a night and for school-aged children, between 9 and 11 hours a night. Individuals should aim for the amount of sleep that feels best for them, while maintaining a fixed wake up time each morning.
- Create a dedicated space (ideally separate from the bedroom) for work or school.
Mental associations are important when it comes to sleep. It’s not only nice to sleep in an area that you don’t work, it’s scientifically proven to make a difference. Keeping work-related items out of the bedroom will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.
- Power down.
At bedtime, thoughtfully power down. This means no electronics or bright lights a minimum of one and preferably two hours prior to your desired bedtime.
- Consider reading a book or practicing mindful meditation.
During these trying times, clearing your mind at night can be challenging. If you or your child are having trouble, a relaxing bath or warm shower before bed may be helpful.
“Individuals have different sleep cycles and needs when it comes to sleep. However, keeping a regular sleep schedule is important no matter your age,” says Dr. Kole.
Director of Outpatient Sleep Services, Alison S. Kole, MD, MPH, FACCP, specializes in sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and insomnia. She is a fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians and a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and American Thoracic Society