Covid-19 and Sleep Difficulties

Many people are reporting sleeping difficulties post COVID-19 and the impact these are having on their rehabilitation. Sleep difficulties may be that your sleep pattern have been disrupted, that it’s hard to get to sleep, difficult to stay asleep and you wake up often, waking up very early, or you are sleeping too much and finding it hard to wake up. 

Why this is happening?

It can be as a result of many things, you’ve been unwell and the body needs more sleep to recover, you’ve changed your routines (going to bed later, getting up later), meal times are later, you aren’t going outside, you maybe not doing” what you would normally”, you are in pain,  or you are more stressed or anxious,

Sleep difficulties then can be seen to make some of the other COVID-19 symptoms worse. You may be more fatigued, less able to cope with your pain, have increased anxiety, lower mood, find it more difficult to concentrate on things, it effects your appetite and you feel less social.

What can be done to help?

Keeping a sleep diary over a week may help you identify what is keeping you awake and impacting on your sleep. This is a diary available on-line.

Some pointers maybe:

  1. Try not to worry too much about it in the short term…the more you worry, the more sleep will be impacted. If you continue to have difficulties discuss this with your GP who can check for underlying health, clinical conditions or sleep disorder and refer you to specialised sleep services if needed.
  2. The golden rule for good sleep: establish a regular pattern/routine. Try, where possible, to get up at the same time every day and go to bed at the same time. Have a routine where you “wind down/relax” into bed time. What you do during the day sets your sleep pattern.
  3. Try to get out to into natural light daily to set your “body clock” and your “sleep pattern”.
  4. Work out if having caffeine (coffee, tea, Cola) after late afternoon stops you from sleeping. Consider making adjustments to what you drink or when you drink to see if it makes any difference.
  5. When and what wait you eat may also impact on sleep. Eating late may make it difficult to sleep as your body is waking its self-up to try to digest food. Consider trying to eat earlier and well before bedtime or eating different foods to see if there is any impact. You may have to try this more than one day/one time to work it out. But don’t go to bed thirsty or overly hunger, aim to strike a balance to avoid waking up.
  6. Sleep environment may also have a part to play in how well you sleep. The general advice is that the room is better on the cooler side, uncluttered and with limited technology in the room. If you are using phones, computers etc. to try using them on night mode to reduce blue light emission. This is the wavelength of light that tells the brain it’s day and time to be awake.
  7. Consider moving any clocks that are in the bed room so they are not in your eye line when you wake up. For some seeing the clock when you continually wake up can increase anxiety and make it difficult to fall back asleep.
  8. If you do wake up, don’t toss and turn in bed waiting to fall asleep. It’s suggested that after 15 mins if you haven’t fallen back asleep, to get up and go to another room. Try to relax and take rest instead. Only go back to bed when you have a good chance of falling asleep again. If you lie in bed staring at the celling, tossing, turning or looking for the monsters under the bed…your brain will link bed with this activity and not sleep.
  9. There maybe physical difficulties that make sleep difficult post COVID-19. You may find it harder to breathe being flat or sleeping in a particular position. You may need to experiment with sleeping more upright in-bed, using more pillows, or having the top of the bed propped up slightly. The way you sleep may cause more joint pain. You may wish to discuss this further with your GP or a Physiotherapist for advice on postural management in what is called a supine position.
  10. Sleep is a very personal thing, how we sleep, how long for and the quality of it is very much individualised. The advice given is standardised advice and by being standardised doesn’t often take into account our individualised nature. If you having ongoing concerns please discuss them with your GP.
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