Getting adequate restful sleep is crucial for Long Covid patients. However, it can be elusive for many patients. Poor sleep can exacerbate symptoms, increase fatigue, and reduce overall quality of life. If you’re sleep issues are chronic and you find yourself unable to get restful sleep (this is a high probability), consider talking to your GP or a sleep specialist. However, there are many interventions you can try at home to try and improve your sleep.
1. Get some sun (light)
Exposure to natural sunlight is an essential factor in regulating our circadian rhythm, which is responsible for our sleep-wake cycle. If you can, try to go outside within 30-60 minutes of waking up and again in the late afternoon, prior to sunset. On bright cloudless days, view the morning and afternoon sun for 10 minutes; cloudy days for 20 minutes; and very overcast days for 30-60 minutes. If you can go outside try making your house very bright during the day and darker in the evening.
2. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is crucial for regulating our circadian rhythm. Wake up at the same time every day, and go to sleep when you first start to feel sleepy. Avoid pushing through the sleepy late evening feeling and going to sleep too late, as this can lead to waking up in the middle of the night and difficulty falling back asleep.
3. Limit caffeine, especially in the afternoon
We all love a morning cuppa Joe but it's well documented that caffeine can interfere with our sleep quality, so it is important to limit caffeine intake within 8-10 hours of bedtime.
4. Avoid screens and bright lights at night
These days it's hard to avoid screens. Whether it's watching Netflix or scrolling through social media, screens are a big part of our daily routine. However, using screens before bed can actually interfere with your sleep. The blue light emitted by screens can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. This can make it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Try avoiding screens a few hours before bedtime, using blue light filters and dimming the lights in your house in the evening.
5. Manage nighttime waking
If can be hard when you’re waking every few hours or minutes to get back to sleep. The temptation is often to reach for our phones which can exacerbate the issue. Try some meditation or breath-work exercises to calm your mind and body and give you the best chance to get back to sleep.
6. Try supplements
Some supplements can aid in promoting better sleep quality. Consider taking magnesium threonate or magnesium bisglycinate and theanine 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Some people find Melatonin useful although you need a prescription for it in Ireland. Start with one supplement (or none) and add one at a time as needed. Some people do not need any supplements, while others prefer theanine but not magnesium, etc. Determine what is best for you. It's important to talk to your healthcare provider before trying any new remedies or supplements.
6. Try natural remedies
Along with supplements, there are some natural remedies that can help promote better sleep. One of the most popular is valerian root, which has been used for centuries to aid in relaxation and sleep. Another option is chamomile tea, which contains compounds that can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Passionflower and lavender are also known for their calming effects and can be consumed as teas or taken in supplement form. Additionally, practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can also help improve sleep quality.
7. Create a sleep-friendly environment
Getting a good night's sleep isn't just about avoiding screens and bright lights before bed. Your sleep environment plays a big role in how well you sleep, too. Here are a few factors to consider when creating a sleep-friendly environment:
Temperature: The temperature of your bedroom can have a big impact on how well you sleep. Most people sleep best in a room that's between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Experiment with different temperatures to find what works best for you.
Air quality: The air quality in your bedroom can also affect your sleep. Make sure to keep your bedroom well-ventilated, and consider using an air purifier if you live in an area with poor air quality.
Noise: Noise can be a major sleep disruptor. If you live in a noisy area, consider using earplugs or investing in a white noise machine to block out unwanted sounds. On the other hand, if you prefer some noise while sleeping, you can try listening to calming music or nature sounds.
Light: Light can interfere with your body's natural sleep-wake cycle. Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible by using blackout curtains or blinds, or a sleep mask if necessary.
Comfort: Lastly, make sure your bed and bedding are comfortable and supportive. Invest in a quality mattress and pillows, and choose bedding that feels comfortable against your skin.
8. Avoid alcohol and sleep medications
Alcohol is a sedative, which means it can make you feel drowsy and help you fall asleep faster. However, it can also lead to fragmented sleep and frequent awakenings during the night, making it harder to reach the deep, restorative stages of sleep. Additionally, alcohol can worsen snoring and sleep apnea, causing breathing problems during sleep that can further disrupt the sleep cycle.
Similarly, sleep medications can also have negative effects on sleep quality. Many sleep medications are classified as sedative-hypnotics, which means they work by depressing the central nervous system, leading to drowsiness and promoting sleep. However, like alcohol, these medications can also lead to fragmented sleep and frequent awakenings, leading to a cycle of poor sleep quality.
Andrew Huberman's Sleep Toolkit: https://www.instagram.com/p/CQptQ2tgiYj/
Dr. Matthew Walker's book "Why We Sleep": https://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Sleep-Unlocking-Dreams/dp/1501144324
Sleep Health Foundation: https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/
National Sleep Foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/
American Academy of Sleep Medicine: https://aasm.org/