Article by Deniz Keskinel, Intern
Real talk: Sleep habits are hard. Amidst these uncertain Corona times, sleep can be even more challenging: you may have additional worries about your new schedule as a result of staying home and not going to school. Or maybe you’re concerned about what it will be like going “back to normal” or not being able to keep up with friends. All of these thoughts may be taking a toll on your sleep. I’m sure that all the teens who are reading this have already heard it from many adults in their lives, however, did you know that a good night’s sleep is very important for getting you through that math assignment, getting less annoyed at your little brother (who you now see 24/7), and boosting your immune system? A good night’s sleep improves concentration and memory, helps regulate mood, and supports immunity. So how to get that elusive “good night’s sleep”? Here are some things you can try to incorporate in your life, starting today, that might help:
- Try to have a consistent schedule, going to bed and waking up around the same time every day. Try not to deviate from this schedule more than 1-2 hours. So not having school the next day shouldn’t be a reason to go to bed at 12am! Keep in mind how many hours of sleep you should be getting when choosing your bed and wake up time: If you are a pre-teen, it’s recommended that you get 9 to 11 hours. If you are a teen, then 8 to 10 is the advice of researchers.
- Have a bedtime routine, and do things that relax you before going to bed. A lot of us tend to worry especially at night, before going to sleep. Try listening to relaxing music, take a warm shower, read, journal, or meditate!
- Try not to look at your phone or computer screen in the hour before going to bed. I know this is a tough one, but the light coming from a screen confuses your body into thinking that it’s still daylight. This interferes with your brain producing the hormone melatonin, which helps you go to sleep. If you MUST watch that next episode of Brooklyn 99, you can try to use the night light setting on your device to reduce the blue light.
- Try not to use your bed for things other than sleep. This means not doing homework or watching Netflix while sitting on or laying down in bed. Our brain is good at making associations, and when you do these things in bed, you are associating your bed with being awake. Instead, try to associate your bed with sleepiness. Everyone is working from home these days, and it may be tempting to write that essay in your PJ’s from the comfort of your covers, but we promise it’s healthier for you and your mind to find a new study spot – such as a desk, kitchen table, or even the living room couch.
- If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. The last thing you want to do when you’re tired is move, but this is a great strategy. Get up, go to a different room, and try to do something relaxing. This will help you reset your association of your bed with awake-ness – you want to only be there when you feel sleepy! Once you feel drowsier, try going to bed again.
- Lastly, don’t exercise or have a large meal right before bed, and try to avoid naps (especially long ones!). We’re not saying don’t exercise or eat right of course – both are also important to staying healthy. Try and instead to enjoy the ridiculously sunny weather of lockdown by exercising during the day. Exposing yourself to the sunlight then will help you sleep better at night.