Have you noticed that you are struggling with the quality of your sleep (or lack thereof) since the COVID-19 crisis hit South Africa? If so, you are definitely not alone. Here is the scientific evidence behind why sleep disturbances are common in times of crisis, and how to improve your shut-eye going forward.
Why are so many South Africans struggling to sleep?
A huge part of being able to fall asleep and stay asleep is managing to quieten the brain. During times of crisis, and in the midst of what many experts have deemed a ‘slow-moving natural disaster’, we all have a lot to think and worry about. This makes it more and more difficult to simply ‘switch off’ when it’s time for bed.
As students, we are worrying about what’s going to become of our education, our part-time jobs, our family, our friendships, and our daily lives. We are living on tight budgets and are flooded with uncertainty. We feel powerless, exhausted, terrified – and we have no idea how long this virus is going to continue affecting our day-to-day existence.
Add to all of this a disruption in our daily routines, and probably getting out of bed much later than usual, and it’s really no wonder we can’t sleep!
If you are having trouble falling asleep or with night-waking, here are a few tips to put into practice to boost your chances of getting a better night’s rest.
Get some exercise in
Done on a regular basis, as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can help you to fall asleep faster.
With the lifting of the 6am to 9am exercise curfew, it’s that much easier to get yourself outside to take a brisk walk, light jog or even a cycle and let your body absorb some essential Vitamin D while your mind de-stresses with a good workout.
Spend some time in the sunshine
Our natural ‘body clocks’ might start to get confused between day and night when we are spending so much time locked away indoors. Get out in the garden or take a walk (allowed at any time of the day from June 1 vat lockdown level 3) and soak up the sunshine. Not only will doing so re-balance your sleep cycle, but you will also benefit from an improvement in your mood and your Vitamin D levels.
Schedule your time
Even if you are no longer working or studying, it is important to follow a daily routine. A routine is especially important when it comes to bedtime. Do your best to go to sleep and to wake up at similar times and you should notice a change for the better in your sleep.
Most importantly, find a way to confront your worries and your stressors. Talk to family and friends or seek the help of a professional. The SADAG mental health line, for example, is a wonderful resource to have in times of crisis. SADAG is also hosting a number of informative talks with mental health experts throughout the lockdown. Be sure to visit their Facebook page for a complete schedule.
Perhaps you can rest easy tonight now that you know you’re not alone. As uncertain as these times are, try not to worry. You’ve got this.