Chances are this is one of the most stressful seasons of life you have ever lived through, and as a result you are having difficulty sleeping. 77% of American adults report having sleep difficulties since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and those difficulties aren’t going away any time soon. If you have been having strange, vivid, unusually memorable, or scary dreams lately that seem more frequent than ever before, you are not alone. It’s time to take control of your sleep and care for your own personal well-being.

Why Aren’t People Getting Enough Sleep?

Even before the pandemic too many people weren’t getting enough sleep. We all know that eight hours a night is pretty standard for most adults, but a large percentage of Americans aren’t achieving that on a regular basis. Pre-pandemic, 65% of those working, 60% of those who were unemployed, and 51% of those unable to work were getting enough sleep.

Once the pandemic began and people had more time on their hands, only about 11% of people said they were going to use their newfound spare time to get more sleep.

Sleep Is Important For Your Immunity

All kinds of things happen when you sleep that are vital to your survival. Six in ten of the leading causes of death can be linked to inadequate sleep, and that’s when there’s not even a pandemic going on.

When you sleep, your body uses the downtime to clear out your system. Cytokines are released when you sleep, and those regulate your adaptive and innate immune systems. White blood cells accumulate during sleep, fighting off infections and antigens trapped in lymphatic tissues. Cortisol drops during sleep, and when you don’t get enough sleep your cortisol levels rise to dangerous levels.

In the morning cortisol levels rise and melatonin levels drop, decreasing inflammation and making you feel awake and alert. In the evening cortisol levels drop and melatonin levels rise, preparing your body to rest and repair itself. Without adequate sleep your body can’t fight off infections and repair damaged tissues. Over time the result can be serious to your health.

Get Better Sleep Tonight

The first part of getting better sleep is establishing and maintaining a routine. Make sure you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Your body needs a routine, even if the pandemic doesn’t require you to have one.

Next, ensure your sleeping space is only used for sleeping, make sure it’s dark, and keep the temperature cool. Make sure your space is comfortable and relaxing. If you can’t sleep, get up and try something else for a while before trying again.

End your caffeine intake by lunchtime or eliminate it completely. If you still need help sleeping, talk to your healthcare provider about sleeping medications.

Self-care starts with better sleep. Once you are getting consistently restful sleep the stress of the pandemic, working remotely, and managing kids all summer will be a lot easier to deal with. Learn more about the power of sleep from the infographic below.