One expert shares what you should be doing to sleep more soundly during this tumultuous time.

By Kelly Vaughan
March 30, 2020
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The outbreak of coronavirus across the world has caused extremely high levels of stress and anxiety in adults, which can lead to difficulties falling asleep—and staying asleep—at night. If you or a loved one are struggling to get a good night's rest due to the pandemic, follow these tips from Harvard medical expert Suzanne Bertisch, MD, MPH, an associate physician and clinical director of behavioral sleep medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Despite the threat of the coronavirus and its rapid and pervasive disruption to our daily lives, many of us are in a position to control our behaviors and dampen the impact of the emerging pandemic on our sleep," says Dr. Bertisch.

woman sleeping in bed
Credit: Getty / JGI / Jamie Grill

One of the best things that everyone can do each day to sleep better at night is keeping a consistent daily routine. Try to get up and go to sleep at the same time every day. "Pay attention to your body's cues and find a rhythm that works for you and that you can maintain during this 'new normal,'" says Dr. Bertisch.

She also recommends exercising during the day, even if it's for 20 minutes. According to Dr. Bertisch, daily exercise helps improve your sleep quality, reduces stress, and improves mood. Many fitness studios and gyms are currently offering free online workouts on YouTube or Instagram, even if for those who are not already a member. If you can safely go outside in your neighborhood, try going for a walk or run, but keep a safe social distance away from others.

At night, Dr. Bertisch recommends avoiding watching the news or using electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime in order to reduce stress. "The nonstop news cycle seldom provides new information in the evening hours that you can't wait until morning to hear, and will likely stimulate your mind or incite fear, making it harder to fall and stay asleep," she says. Instead, consider doing a more relaxing activity such as journaling, yoga, meditation, or even folding laundry.

If you suffer from sleep apnea or insomnia, reach out to your doctor to see if they can offer additional support virtually, including making changes to your medication.

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