The COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout are causing high levels of anxiety and insomnia in kids and adults. This cycle feeds on itself, with anxiety making sleep worse and sleeplessness worsening anxiety. Read on for six tips to help lessen family anxiety and improve sleep.
1. Stick With a Routine
Research shows that children do better in all parts of life when they have a consistent routine. This is especially true when it comes to falling asleep. Adults also benefit from a consistent bedtime routine. According to the Sleep Council, a routine keeps your body’s internal clock in sync. A good bedtime routine for children could include 10 minutes of hygiene and personal care followed by 15 minutes of a read-aloud story and tucking into the bed. For adults, a similar routine also signals to the body that it’s time to fall asleep.
2. Increase Physical Activity
Exercise causes the body to release feel-good chemicals that may reduce feelings of anxiety, stress or sadness. Getting enough exercise every day also helps reduce anxiety and improve sleep. Exercising doesn’t have to involve a trip to the gym. As a family, you could go on a walk, play a dance video game, rake leaves, or play basketball at the park. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime. The best time to exercise is in the morning or early afternoon. A short walk after dinner could also be a good way to get in a few more steps. During this walk, you could have a family discussion about anything that’s worrying the kids. Talking it out earlier in the evening could prevent worries from popping up at bedtime.
3. Get More Natural Light
Working from home, remote learning, and the shorter daylight hours during autumn and winter make it increasingly difficult to get enough sunshine and natural light. However, exposure to the natural light is important for keeping your circadian rhythm in check. Consider a family walk around the block before logging into school and work in the morning. Try to coordinate lunch breaks and take a “recess” together. Recess could be 15 minutes of outdoor time. Even on a cloudy day, you’ll benefit from the diffused natural light. When the weather is rainy or temperatures are frigid, consider using a lamp with a full-spectrum light bulb.
4. Try Muscle Relaxation
Many people who are stressed have a difficult time falling asleep or staying asleep because of tense muscles. This can lead to headaches, jaw pain, and back pain that makes it difficult to get comfortable and fall asleep. Progressive muscle relaxation or gentle stretching just before getting into bed may help. TMJ treatment may also help with the jaw and headaches associated with tight or overworked muscles in the jaws and face.
5. Set Up a Relaxing Bedroom
Bedrooms should be for sleep only for the kids and sleep and intimacy for parents. Avoid having kids sit in their bedrooms for remote learning, play, and electronics time. As an adult, you should avoid doing your work, bill payments, or other stressful activities in the bedroom. When you use the bedroom for these other activities, your brain associates the space with stress, thinking, work, and action instead of relaxation, pleasure, and sleep. Knowing that your bills are sitting there or that homework isn’t done could cause worse anxiety at bedtime. Get work-related or school-related stuff out of the bedrooms. Remove piles of paperwork, bills, and other materials. Use soothing colors for the walls and linens. Replace scratchy sheets or blankets with soft fabrics. Add a white noise machine and room-darkening shades to promote restfulness.
6. Put the Devices Away
The blue light from electronic devices signals to your brain to be awake. The excitement of social media posts, YouTube videos, and the latest political news also encourage wakefulness. Reading about the latest COVID-19 statistics or economic fallout could keep you up at night. Kids might be tempted to check their social media in lieu of falling asleep. Collect all devices an hour before bedtime. Put them on sleep or curfew.
Everyone in your family can use these tips to improve sleep. When you do them as a family, everyone’s mood and sleep can get better. Each of these tips is simple and free.