Improving Your Sleep Schedule During the Coronavirus Pandemic – and After
This blog about improving the sleep schedule was written by Keith Glasser, owner and CEO of Optimal Results Physical Therapy.
While the world is in the throes of the COVID 19 situation, one of the most important self care areas that you can focus on is sleeping. An integral part of daily life, sleep is one of the main components of eliminating physical pain and limitations via the use of physical therapy practices. For many, a good night’s sleep is an activity that is truly enjoyed, however during times like these, keeping a set – or at least mostly set – sleep schedule is imperative to maintaining health.
For many medical professionals like physical therapists, the topic of sleep often comes up during treatment sessions or consultations, opening up conversation about including sleep as a valuable part of your home exercise program. It may not be “exercise” in the traditional sense of the word, but a well-rested body is capable of many more activities and gains than a fatigued one.
Sleep is the foundation for healing physically, psychologically and physiologically. Unfortunately, it is frequently overlooked and not given the respect it is due. Believe it or not, humans were sleeping 10 – 11 hours per day until the early 1900’s, which was when light from electric light bulbs became commonplace. Today, the average adult human gets much less sleep than that, and must often function when tired. There are many reasons why getting good sleep is important, but none of these will matter if you cannot – and do not – change and improve your sleep schedule.
Improving Your Sleep Schedule by Making Small Changes
You may understand that falling asleep and getting good sleep is essential to maintaining health, but what does that mean, and how can you ensure that it happens? Here are a few ideas that when implemented could improve your sleep a great deal.
- Begin by respecting and empowering yourself and those you love in order to experience an enriched quality and quantity of sleep. This means going to bed when you feel tired, not purposely keeping others awake and trying to get to sleep at around the same time each night. If your body becomes accustomed to resting for the same amount of time each day, it becomes routine.
- Before going to bed, spend 20 to 60+ minutes preparing for sleep. The longer you prepare for sleep, the more relaxed you will likely be by the time you actually climb into bed. Be imaginative and creative in designing your own nightly routine by choosing methods that lead to the feelings of inner peace and calm that will allow you to rest and relax.
- As an example, one nightly routine may include cleaning your mouth and brushing your teeth, meditating for 5-10 minutes in a recliner using something like the Heartmath Inner Balance; playing and practicing a musical instrument for 15 to 30 minutes, and reading in front of the fireplace
- Consider using your bedroom primarily as a place to rest and sleep. It might be tempting to lay in bed and talk, read or use your phone, but these activities can actually interrupt the sleep schedule by prolonging the time it takes you to fall asleep. Many experts recommend that your bed be used only for sleep related activities so that you do not associate it with anything but getting rest.
- Set the temperature of the bedroom at a level that promotes sleep. Cooler is the guideline to follow, as warmer temperatures can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
- Make the room as dark as possible. Blackout curtains or drapes, closing the blinds, and ensuring that as little outside light as possible filters in can make a bedroom more conducive to getting quality sleep.
- Remove all electronic equipment such as cell phones and computers to another room, and cease all electronics usage for an hour before bedtime. Remember to silence all notifications so that nothing interrupts your rest. This is especially helpful today, when you may be tempted to check Twitter or a news site if you wake in the middle of the night. Save the news reading and conversations for your waking hours. A break is necessary; there is nothing wrong with taking one.
- If you have an electric clock in the bedroom, face the light away from you. You may need to use it as an alarm clock, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be able to see the time.
- Wash the sheets regularly. Having clean sheets and blankets is similar to having a clean body from showering often, and you will likely feel more comfortable in your bed when you’re going to sleep on fresh, clean surfaces.
- Keep the bedroom tidy. A solid sleep schedule often depends on routine, and if your space is clean and organized, your mind is likely to follow.
- Have a glass of water easily accessible. Getting thirsty during the night is normal, but in the time it may take to go into the kitchen or bathroom and get something to drink, the body can begin to wake up fully, which not only interrupts the sleeping and resting mind, but it can make it more difficult to fall back asleep, too.
- Take it one night at a time by focusing on the present night only. This might seem difficult, especially with the increased amount of stress that you may be feeling due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but worrying about tomorrow will only hurt the amount and quality of sleep you get tonight. In many cases, people are able to think more clearly and be more productive when they get quality sleep – it’s important!
- Most important of all, be patient and kind with yourself and those you love while these sleep schedule changes are in the works. The goal is to improve sleep over time, but it’s important to understand that things will not change overnight. Progress takes time, and creating new sleep habits takes most of us between 21-60 nights, but once done, the benefits that an improved sleep schedule will make possible will be well worth it, and can impact other areas of your life, too.
Why an Improved Sleep Schedule Can Make All the Difference
Improving your sleep schedule is a change that may seem almost impossible to make, but you actually do have control over it. If you’re unsure of where to begin making changes and adjustments, consider consulting with a medical professional like a physical therapist. While you may think that a physical therapy professional can only help you with exercises, they can actually be quite knowledgeable when it comes to making changes to your sleep patterns, too. The suggestions that they make are likely to be similar to the ones discussed above, but with a consultation or sessions – which can be done via a telehealth appointment with Optimal Physical Therapy using the BetterTelehealth platform – you’ll be able to discuss the right combination for you.
Become empowered to act and improve your sleep schedule whenever it is the correct time for you, but don’t let getting poor sleep or getting very little sleep disrupt your routine any more than it has to. Consider using the telehealth services above, or use the BetterPT clinic locator tool for patients or the BetterPT app to find a therapist or clinic in your network. Schedule a physical therapy appointment with Optimal Results Physical Therapy to start making the necessary changes to your sleep schedule today.
A well rested body and mind can make a huge difference for those that a recovering from an injury or illness – or even just for those that need some guidance when it comes to making changes to their sleep schedule to curb stress or anxiety
Good luck and sweet dreams!
Keith Glasser, Owner, CEO, MSPT, Cert MDT of Optimal Results Physical Therapy has been in the physical therapy field since 1993, after graduating with a Master’s Degree from the University of Massachusetts. Glasser’s philosophy relies on ensuring that patients remain the top priority for a physical therapist, and that the PT sessions are fun and effective. Throughout his career, Glasser has worked in in-patient and out-patient as well as skilled nursing facilities. He enjoys activities like hiking, playing soccer, traveling and gardening in his time off.