Worrying about money ranks right at the top of the list when it comes to things that stress us out and keep us up at night.1 Whether making the mortgage payment, planning for retirement or just covering the monthly bills, people can often lose sleep fretting about their financial fitness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased uncertainty and stress for many families who have experienced layoffs, furloughs or are homeschooling children in addition to having a career. On top of that, people are naturally concerned for the health and safety of family and friends, especially those who fall into the more vulnerable and high-risk groups.
But, along with regular exercise and a healthy diet, good sleep is vital for your well-being and mental health. The Harvard Medical School reports that studies suggest a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience, while chronic sleep deprivation sets the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.2
Managing life during the COVID-19 pandemic can be tough, and we are in uncharted territory. But there are ways to optimize sleep in this challenging environment. Here are 10 tips:
1. Turn off the screens
Blue light — emitted by electronic devices like smartphones and computers in large amounts — reduces hormones like melatonin, which help you relax and get into a good sleep. There are apps available that block the blue light on your smartphone or, better still, just turn off all screens at least 1 hour before you go to bed.
2. Develop a good sleep pattern
Training yourself to go to bed at roughly the same time each night and waking around the same time in the morning can aid long-term sleep quality. Healthy adults need 7 or more hours of sleep per night, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.3
3. Cut down on stimulants
Both alcohol and caffeine are known to reduce sleep quality. Alcohol increases snoring and affects sleep patterns, while caffeine stimulates your nervous system and can stop your body from naturally relaxing and drifting off at night.
4. Keep to a routine
Developing a consistent pre-bed routine will also help your sleep. This could mean listening to relaxing music, reading a book, taking a hot bath, or even some meditating or yoga.
5. Avoid the late-night feasts
Eating a big meal too late in the evening can stop you from sleeping. And sugary snacks can also keep you awake if consumed just before bedtime. On the other hand, there are certain foods that aid in sleep according to the American Sleep Association.4 These foods include the nutrients to help you sleep, like a mix of calcium, potassium, magnesium, tryptophan and B6. Try sleep-inducing foods, such as poultry, yogurt, bananas and honey in the evening and you may be surprised by how fast you fall and stay asleep.
6. Create the ultimate sleep environment
In order to sleep well, you need the right setting. This means a clean, peaceful and welcoming room. Fragrances such as lavender and germanium are naturally calming, and soft, muted tones also make you feel tranquil. If you’re too hot or too cold you won’t sleep soundly, so the American Sleep Association recommends a room temperature of around 65° Fahrenheit, although you’re the best judge of your comfort level.5 For an ideal sleep environment, try room-darkening window treatments, heavy curtains or an eye mask to eliminate as much natural light as possible. Light can come from anywhere — streetlights, your hallway, even the moon and the stars — all of which can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime.
7. Make a note of it
Keeping a sleep diary will help you look back and see what has and hasn’t worked for you. It also shows how your sleep varies from night to night and can help you spot patterns in your sleeping — both good and bad.
8. Don’t stew in bed
If you can’t get to sleep, don’t just lie in bed with your mind racing, getting anxious or going over things. Get up and do something else, like reading, watching television or listening to music, until you feel tired enough to go back to bed. You’ll be much more likely to drift off this time around.
9. Manage worries
We live in a 24/7 culture in which our to-do lists seem to be constantly growing and causing us to worry about unfinished tasks at bedtime. Many people just cycle through their to-do lists in their heads. Try to resolve your worries or concerns — financial or otherwise — before going to bed. Jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.
10. Ask for help if needed
Finally, if you find that consistently poor sleep is negatively impacting your overall well-being, then don’t hesitate to see a physician. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively, so you can finally get that good night’s rest you need.
It’s good to talk
“In times of heightened stress and anxiety, sleep can be one of the first things to suffer,” says Ruth Tongue, co-founder of London-based corporate employee well-being specialists, Elevate. “Following good sleep hygiene is essential, but if you’re not addressing the root cause of the stress and anxiety, this can be seen as a Band-Aid covering up the real issue.”
If you find financial concerns are among those keeping you awake at night, a financial professional can work with you to review or create a plan that can help you find more peace of mind in these uncertain times.