TEMPLE, Texas — "The pandemic has affected people's sleep in a lot of ways." Dr. Carl Boethel, Division Chief of Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Baylor Scott and White, said this last year hasn't been great for our sleep.
"I think that the stress associated with the pandemic did lead to some sleep disturbances and we saw an increased amount of insomnia," Dr. Boethel explained.
Kids, who had to switch to online school, saw their sleep routines disrupted. Dr. Boethel said that can affect their school performance, behavior and executive function, or the ability to know right from wrong. When it comes to adults, stress wreaked havoc on catching Z’s. And many of those poor sleeping habits aren’t getting better as the pandemic starts to end.
"Getting good sleep is really key to ensuring a good healthy lifestyle and making sure that people are able to function as members of society as well as have their own family," Dr. Boethel said.
So, how do we get better sleep?
"Get on a regimen that works, and what I mean by that is having a set bedtime and a set wake time and sticking to it," Dr. Boethel said.
Here are some of his other tips:
- avoid eating too close to bedtime
- skip the afternoon coffee
- ditch your nightly alcoholic beverage
- leave cell phones and TV's turned off
- exercise regularly
- start a meditation routine
- keep your home's temperature cool
- try blue light blockers leading up to bedtime if you have to be on your phone or computer
- no pets in the bed
Dr. Boethel explained, "Removing the stressors of the day, finding time to relax before bedtime, not going into the bedroom stressed" will result in better sleep. Also, avoid sleep aids like medication and supplements.
"Your body should naturally be able to go to sleep without the use of supplements or pills, and so I would strongly encourage people not to try to reach for a pill when they can't rest at night. It's important to try to get to sleep in a natural manner.”
Now parents, Dr. Boethel said it’s okay to let your kids sleep in on the weekends. Just make sure they aren't staying up extra late, too. And we should all be aiming for at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night. Dr. Beothel said studies show people who sleep that much, live the longest.