4 ways to save your sleep in isolation

Right now people all over the world are isolating and practicing social distancing (including me, following my return from Germany). With cases of COVID-19 spreading throughout the USA now is the time to shut your doors and keep your family safe. Even if you have no symptoms, staying indoors as much as possible is highly encouraged.

Of course, that means that parents are working from home, children can’t attend school and regular routines are all but non-existent. With this huge change in lifestyle, you may find yourself waking up late, eating at unusual times and even wondering what day it is. This sudden drastic change to our internal clock can confuse the body causing interrupted sleep, a lack of motivation and a drop in attention span. Maintaining a healthy routine and sleep cycle is vital to both adults and children. Here are some tips to thriving in the new normal:

1. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day: This is called entrainment, and a well-entrained system relies on regular wake and sleep times. Without regularity you’ll find yourself tired during the day, having a hard time waking up and even waking during the night. Set your alarm clocks with these three times and stick to them: wake up, prepare for bed, turn off the lights and go to sleep.

2. Open all the curtains in the morning: Your brain relies on the blue light coming from daylight to produce serotonin and cortisol - the hormones that make you feel wakeful and alert. If you keep the curtains closed all day your brain won’t be able to effectively make you feel awake and ready for the day. Additionally, if you don’t have to be in complete isolation, go for a walk outside each day at a time your neighborhood is quiet.

3. Maintain normal meal times: It can be very easy when working from home to eat a late breakfast or skip lunch. Similar to irregular bedtimes, irregular mealtimes will confuse your system making you feel unmotivated or distracted, and they can also wreak havoc on your metabolism and digestion. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time every day (or if you don't eat breakfast, that's fine too - as long as you stick to it).

4. Put your phone away at night: When working through isolation the idea of an end of your workday can disappear and you might find yourself answering emails late at night or checking the news on your phone at bedtime. Not only can it feel incredibly stressful to be reachable 24/7 but the blue light emitted by your phone or computer screen works like a melatonin-blocker. This will make it hard for you to fall to sleep in the evening and in turn have you feeling tired the next day. Treat the end of your workday in isolation as if you’re leaving the office, you could even put an out of office on telling people when you’ll next be available. If you use your phone in the evening, make sure to have ‘night shift’ or ‘night mode’ turn on to block the blue light.

Times feel uncertain right now, we don’t know how long this new normal will last and what life will look like after COVID-19. What you can control is your actions so maintain a healthy schedule while in isolation and it will help your body and brain maintain some semblance of normalcy. Importantly, your schedule will positively affect your whole family including your children.