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Advice on protecting sleep during COVID-19 pandemic

Advice on maintaining good sleep in the face of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has been offered by the University of Strathclyde’s Sleep Research Unit.

Worry, reduced physical activity and disrupted routines are among the main threats to sleep patterns amid the global outbreak. The Sleep Research Unit, which provides training on insomnia therapy and workshops on improving sleep, is now offering guidance on how sleep can be protected during the lockdown period, to help people remain in good physical and mental health.

Sleep Research Unit Director Dr Leanne Fleming said: “Disturbed sleep is a perfectly natural response to the stress we are experiencing due to COVID-19. However, it is important that we try to protect our sleep and to think about strategies that might help us to sleep well.

“One of the key things is for people to try to maintain a stable routine. When you lose a regular structure, such as a set time to get up and leave the house, it can be tempting to stay up later in the evenings or lie in bed later in the mornings.

"If this change to your typical sleep pattern becomes a habit, then it will be much more challenging to get back into a normal routine once the restrictions are lifted.”

Dr Megan Crawford, a Lecturer in Psychology in the Sleep Research Unit, said: “If people have more time and less of a routine, they will extend the time they are in bed, but instead of sleeping, they fill that time with other activities like reading, watching TV or looking through their phones.

“This becomes a problem for two reasons. Firstly, over time the bed becomes a cue for wakefulness, rather than sleep. Secondly, if you spend that time reading information on social media or news outlets, it might make you more anxious. Both lead to a reduced chance of falling asleep quickly.

The researchers’ advice includes:

  • remain calm and don’t bring your worries to bed
  • limit your exposure to news and social media if it is too distressing, especially in the hour before bedtime
  • keep a regular sleep and work routine
  • avoid daytime napping
  • connect with friends online and talk
  • find time to exercise and get exposure to natural light daily. This will help you keep a regular sleep routine.