The global coronavirus pandemic has upended the world as we know it, causing financial insecurity, death, travel restrictions and stress—lots and lots of stress. 

It’s widely understood that stress can have a detrimental impact on many aspects of a person’s health with sleep being a prominent one. 

Michael Howell, MD, is a sleep medicine physician who specializes in neurology and sleep health for University of Minnesota Physicians. He recognizes that major events like the COVID-19 pandemic can greatly affect sleep and has insight for how to mitigate the impact.

“Everybody understands that when you’re stressed, you don’t sleep well. But, this stress crosses all aspects of your life. It’s not just your health—it’s your parents’ health, your kids’ health—and stress about what’s happening with the economy, the country and world. It  encompasses all aspects of your life,” Dr. Howell said.

Sticking with your typical sleep routine, or even establishing one, is crucial to maintaining sleep during stressful periods. To feel well-rested and receive the most health benefits from sleep, you need to have enough sleep, well-timed sleep and quality sleep. Dr. Howell has a few tips.

“You, me and all seven billion people have a time when their body most naturally wants to sleep. We all have a natural circadian rhythm. Keep with good, healthy routines. If you're used to working out in the morning, get up and find a way to be active. Sleeping better isn't just about doing the right things at night, but also doing the right things in mornings and afternoons too. Whatever worked for what you were doing before COVID-19, exercise, diet and try to keep that normalcy.”

Dr. Michael Howell

By tampering with your body’s natural circadian rhythm, one might experience insomnia, low energy or nightmares. While changes in your daily schedule due to COVID-19 might not be avoidable, analyzing reasons behind poor sleep is a great first step. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you consume caffeine or alcohol regularly?
  • How have your stress levels changed since COVID-19 began?
  • What helps you fall asleep? (Fan, sleeping mask, etc.)
  • Is your sleep problem being treated by a professional?

Answers to these questions can highlight barriers to a sound night’s sleep. Determine a routine that works for you personally and if issues still persist, then sleep medicine experts, such as Dr. Howell, are available to determine the best course of action.