Lacking our regular habits & routines is reshaping our lifestyles as we adjust to the COVID pandemic. Since the stay-at-home order, even our basic routines have changed as businesses & economies close and many are quarantined.
With new stressors and anxieties, even normal things like work-life balance can be difficult to manage as we lose track of the days and worry about our wellbeing in a crisis.
Working during COVID-19
Our daily work lives have changed dramatically since the outbreak. Taking our commute, our colleagues, and our regular work environment out of the picture changes how we usually stay productive.
Also being stuck at home can effect us both physically and mentally. With less opportunities to go out, we don’t spend as much outside or even get as much natural sunlight as we used to. This can affect our physical cues for wakefulness and sleep, which can attribute to staying up too late or oversleeping.
Read more: Do I Have A Sleep Debt?
What does work-life balance look like?
With many of us working from home, work-life balance can be even more difficult to manage. Those of us who are worried about finding work or are working reduced hours might be facing a lot of stress, which could affect your mentality as well as your productivity.
Many people are experiencing burnout from the combined effects of work stress as well as home-life. Many are pressured to work even harder, as the economy takes a hit and prospective layoffs urge them to prove that they are working hard.
Even working from home itself is a big adjustment. Many don’t have another space to work or are surrounded by people that make for a very disruptive environment. Stanford economist Bloom breaks it down into four main things: children, space, privacy and choice can make productivity plummet if they affect your work. Without separation from the workplace and home life, work-life balance can be difficult since we can’t disconnect from either.
Business are changing how they operate to support their employees. Most ask employees to work remotely, as well as expand sick leave policy or encourage sick employees to stay at home. Health and hygiene are taking priority which could have a positive impact on workers’ wellbeing.
In other areas, a survey finds that many see increasing leadership in their workplace, providing guidance and ability to communicate a plan of action during these changes.
Changes to sleep during crises have happened before. Studies are being done comparing the pandemic’s effect on dreams with other disasters like 9/11.
How it effects our health
Especially since we no longer have our regular routines, we don’t have as many things tying us to our regular bedtime schedule. It can be harder to keep track of the time, or even the day. Many might stay up late well past their regular schedule, or oversleep in the morning. Both things can slowly shift our regular body’s cycles and make us feel groggy if we’re trying to get up without sufficient sleep.
In addition, most of us are increasing our online time and using digital screens throughout the day. Without much to do outside of home, technology is our main source of entertainment. There’s been growth in Wifi-use and even a boom in online esports. While most of us use technology every day, increasing blue-light effect can still affect our sleep schedules.
There are also new studies being conducted on the impacts of COVID and self-isolation on insomnia and sleep. Even in this short time, there’ve been noticeable observations on changing sleep experiences due to the pandemic.
Growing stress and insomnia
Stress is a huge factor that influences our sleep quality. There’s growing stress and worry about our health, the economy, and our personal livelihoods. Our sleep could be greatly affected by growing anxieties.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder already, but even episodes of difficulty sleeping can be attributed to stress or anxiety. Stress causes cognitive, physical and emotional changes that affect our body. Increasing stress can induce a “flight or fight” response that could affect sleep loss.
Both also have an impact on suppressing our immune system functions, which we need to care for more than ever especially during this time.
Sleep is necessary for your immune system
Many studies point to how sleep is important to keep our immune systems functioning and healthy.
Research has shown that the production of T cells, white blood cells that help your immune system, peak while you are asleep. These cells are necessary for your body to fight infections and viruses. It’s strong evidence that sleep is important to the production of these cells.
Sleep deprivation can also suppress your immune system; stress hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline tend to inhibit immune cells like T-cells from binding to infected cells, thus suppressing immune system functions. In experimentally induced sleep loss, these immune functions decreased.
Short-term interrupted sleep or sleep deprivation is also linked to greater evidence of inflammation, as well as insulin resistance, higher cortisol levels and higher blood pressure. This state can make it difficult for the body to fight off other infections or inflammation.
Read more: Sleep Is Important For Your Immune System
Suggestions on how to manage better balance & sleep during quarantine
Avoid burning out by managing your sleep. Sleep is necessary to restore your energy and can be naturally helpful in feeling more productive & positive, as well as helping reduce stress.
Create a schedule.
It’s important to create a consistent sleep schedule. Try to get a sufficient amount of sleep every night. While it seems simple, getting up at a specific time and following your own personal routine can help with productivity. Take advantage of time we have to practice self-care and get the sleep we need.
Limit your screen time.
Online use has only grown since the outbreak. Limit your screen time before bedtime so that you can reduce the amount of blue light you’re getting. It’s important to take care of your sleep environment more than ever. Keep your room dark and quiet when you sleep, and avoid loud noises that spike stress levels.
Before bed, stop using electronics to make time for other things. Do things that help you destress like listen to music, take a hot bath, or something else you enjoy.
Have a morning routine.
Even though we’ve lost a lot of our regular routines, it’s important to try to stay on track.
Try to wake up around the same time every morning. Follow a personal routine like get breakfast, do morning exercises or meditation, and set your work hours for a certain time.
Try meditation or exercises to relax.
Anxiety and stress can have a huge impact on your sleep. Deep breathing helps slow down your heart rate and send oxygen to your brain and body, clearing your mind and relieving tension and stress.
An easy breathing exercise you can practice is
- Take slow deep breaths, inhaling through your nose for 4-5 seconds
- Slowly exhale through your mouth for another 4-5 seconds
- Repeat this ten times
Practicing self-care is important no matter what.
We are pushing for more ways to make better sleep quality and sleep health easier for you to reduce stress. You can learn more here.