On March 17, 2020, the lockdown was set up to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, paralyzing France and the rest of the world. The population was forced to stay at home, trying to catch up with their lack of sleep. However, it was hardly restful. Many problems like falling asleep, having nightmares or feeling tired, even while sleeping enough, were highlighted during this period. According to experts, all of these problems can be easily explained.
How did you sleep during the lockdown?
One could think that the quarantine allowed people to rest better. Since people could not go out, many had to switch to working from home. This no longer involved transportation to work, wearing formal clothes or even having to drop off children at school. Saving time in the morning and evening could have led people to sleep more or at least be more rested…but it was not the case.
The Réseau Morphée, a sleep doctors association, conducted a study in April 2020 over 1,700 people to investigate French people’s behaviour during the quarantine. While 47% of people declared sleeping worse during lockdown, only 13% declared sleeping better. Despite the fact that participants increased their average sleep time by around 42 minutes (from 7:18 to 8:00 a.m.), they felt that the quality of their sleep had decreased. This came with people having more nightmares, insomnia or more difficulty sleeping than before.
Why did we sleep worse during the lockdown?
The main factor is anxiety. Since not everybody was working at their workplace, this unusual situation caused a lot of stress among children and adults. Many people spent much of their day in front of the news, informing themselves on the number of deaths, contaminations or shortages, driving up the level of anxiety. Together with the lockdown and the concern about relatives’ health, it had a major impact on our sleep.
The Réseau Morphée highlighted other aspects to explain this situation:
Firstly, people tend to go to sleep and get up about 1 hour later than before the lockdown, which has shifted their internal clock. Additionally, falling asleep and waking up hours were less regular than before the quarantine, disturbing the internal clock even more.
Secondly, a 25-minute reduction of exposure to the sun was recorded. This is necessary for the proper functioning of your internal clock, with also beneficial effects on your mind. Regarding the practice of sport, the result is quite heterogeneous. While there was an increase of people working out on a daily basis, there were also more people who never played sports. Changes of this type can have a big influence on sleep. If you regularly play sports and you suddenly stop, you cannot spend enough energy and therefore cannot be as tired at night. On the contrary, if you start sports during lockdown you may be more tired and thus have no problem to sleep in the evening. It could explain why some people have been sleeping better since lockdown began. However, if sport is performed in the evening, it can have an exciting effect before going to bed and, as a result, prevents sleeping. Finally, exposure to screens in the evening has increased drastically. The number of people who used screens more than three hours in the evening doubled and the number of people who used screens more than four hours almost tripled. Being in front of a screen just before going to bed has a big impact on your sleep and it is often the cause of insomnia or trouble sleeping.
How to improve your sleep?
During the lockdown, the National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance gave us their advice to limit insomnia. Even if the total quarantine is over, our sleep is still disturbed because some people have started working again, going out with friends. In addition, these tips are applicable all the time, lockdown or not!
- Do not change your bedtime and wake-up time, or at least as little as possible. Keeping fixed bedtime and wake-up times is very important to keep your internal clock adjusted and thus to have less trouble sleeping and waking up. Moreover, if you had a bad night, don’t stay in our bed to try to fall asleep, get up and start your day. The next night will be the right one!
- Only remain in your bed to sleep. If you are not sleeping, you should get out of bed: that doesn’t stop you from resting on the sofa! If possible, you should keep your bedroom separated from your working place.
- In the morning, expose yourself to sunshine or strong light, while enjoying your morning coffee in the sun or in natural light for instance. It can also be replaced by light therapy or a screen. It guarantees the proper functioning of the biological clock: once the body and mind know that we are awake, we can start the day.
- Physical activity at home helps to keep wakefulness/sleep pace stable. It will allow to have physical tiredness that is beneficial to sleep and it allows to vary the activities of your day. However, you should preferably stop 3 to 4 hours before going to bed not to be excited.
- A nap to stay in shape is a good idea. However, be careful that it is not too long: 20 minutes is the ideal time to stay in light sleep.
- Reduce the consumption of stimulants. All energy drinks, coffee and tea are to be avoided, especially after 2:00pm. If not, you might not be able to fall asleep in the evening.
- Vary activities during the day. Don’t sit in front of your computer all day long, otherwise you’ll risk somnolence.
- In the evening, it is important to have a light dinner. You should avoid eating too fat and preferably eat starchy food so as not to be hungry before going to bed.
- Turn off screens 1h to 2h before going to bed. It is important to turn off the screens of your computer, phone and tablet and keep them turned off until the next morning. It will also create an evening routine that will be beneficial for your sleep.
- Organize your room to make it suitable to sleep. There are several recommendations for a good night sleep: darkness, silence and a temperature between 18°C and 20°C.
Now, you got all the cards for a good night!