The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause stress and anxiety that can have harmful effects on your sleep.

A good night’s sleep is a key factor in maintaining your health and protecting your immune system. Getting at least seven hours of quality rest each night is essential for optimal health. 

“Sleep is vital to our health, and it has so many physical and mental benefits,” says Dr. Rachel Ziegler, Sleep Medicine physician, Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont. “Sleep needs to be a priority, so when stress and anxiety keep us from a good night’s rest, we have to work at it.”

Sleep provides the foundation for all of your daily habits and decisions. In addition to perpetuating serious health conditions, lack of sleep can negatively affect your mood and temperament, as well as your ability to focus on daily tasks.

The quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity. You can be in bed for eight hours and still feel drowsy the next day if your sleep is frequently interrupted during the night.

With all of this in mind, Mayo Clinic Health System recommends those experiencing sleep disruptions try these tips to sleep better:

  • Create an ideal sleep environment. Your sleep space should be dark, quiet, comfortable and cool. Think about using dark shades, earplugs, eyeshades, and subtle background noise such as humidifiers or fans.
  • Follow a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends. Consistency reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and promotes better sleep.
  • Give yourself time to unwind. Create a relaxing routine before bedtime. Consider taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book or listening to soothing music. You also might try meditation or prayer to relax. This can be especially helpful when anxiety is affecting sleep.
  • Turn off the screens. Dedicate 30 to 60 minutes before you go to sleep as time away from your electronic devices. Minimizing the bright light exposure gives your brain the time it needs to get sleepy.
  • Use your bed for sleep. Don’t eat, work, use your phone, watch TV or do anything in bed that may keep you from relaxing and getting good sleep.
  • Get regular physical activity. Regular physical activity can promote better sleep by helping you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. Exercise earlier in the day, if possible.
  • Avoid caffeine. Avoid consuming caffeine six hours before you want to fall asleep and avoid alcohol before bed, as it disrupts sleep.

If you follow these tips and still find yourself constantly craving sleep and feeling fatigued, talk to your health care provider to make sure that there isn’t an underlying sleep disorder.