Is COVID-19 disrupting your sleep schedule? Are you having trouble staying awake during online lessons? Or maybe you’re having trouble falling asleep at night?
During the current coronavirus situation, us students are finding it harder than ever to adapt to a entirely new timetable, both with schoolwork and home life. A healthy sleep schedule is the key to feeling slightly less anxious and more motivated during this brave new world.
We’ve got you covered with our five top tips to maintaining a healthy sleep schedule while homeschooling!
Why is sleep important?
Firstly, why is sleep so important? Why do health professionals, teachers, and parents continue to persuade us that sleeping a good 8-9 hours a night will help you succeed in school?
Fact check – teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep per night! Heaps, right?
While we sleep, our brain processes our learning, consolidating our study and short-term memory from our day of online school.
Sleep deprivation means a lack of concentration at school, inability to retain study, and increased anxiety and depression. So, if you are aiming to be out of bed by 8:00am, you should really be in bed around 10:30-11:00pm to maximise your sleep.
But hang on, why can’t I get to sleep? Teenagers’ internal body clocks (AKA the circadian rhythm) is reset, producing less melatonin (the sleep chemical) at night and more in the morning. Therefore, our brains stay awake later at night, and wake up later in the morning. Tough right?
But no stress. Read below for five tips that may help you fall asleep a little easier!
Tip #1: Aim for a bedtime and wake-up time
I know – but you should really have a bedtime and a wake-up time to aim for!
Having a sleep schedule, such as what time you finish school work, what time you go to bed, and what time you will wake-up will create some normality in this COVID-19 crisis.
Aim to go to bed and wake-up at the same time each weekday, allowing for a slight sleep-in and later nights on the weekends.
Maintaining a regular pattern will allow your brain to know when it needs to start winding down and when it needs to start waking up.
For example, in order to gain a good 8-10 hour sleep, aim to be in bed with lights out by 10:30-11:00pm if you plan on getting up for online learning at 8am. This way you’ll get 9+ hours of sleep!
Wake-up tip:place your alarm on the other side of your bedroom so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. If you are using your phone as an alarm, make sure it is on airplane mode.
Tip #2: Limit screen time at night
Speaking of airplane mode – in order to get a really good night sleep, you must limit screen time before bed.
According to the US National Sleep Foundation, which surveyed 30 000 teenagers from 50 states, 96% use screens in the hour before bedtime!
The blue light from screens lowers melatonin levels, the chemical in the brain that triggers sleep, signalling to our brain to “wake up.” This is detrimental to our sleep pattern, as trouble falling asleep at night means we can’t wake up early.
The solution – stay off the screens at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. I know, that’s super hard! But try doing something else, such as reading.
If you have to use a screen, make sure you turn on the lights in your bedroom, as they can help reduce the impact of the blue screen light.
If you really can’t stay off the screen, have a parent or family member take away your device overnight, and always have your phone on airplane mode if you keep it in your bedroom.
Tip #3: Create a bedtime routine
Personally, I love having a calming bedtime routine that I schedule into my daily planner.
Relaxing before bed calms your mind, particularly if you have been studying all afternoon and your brain just won’t stop thinking.
Some things I like to do before bed include:
- Using essential oils, such as lavender or orange in a diffuser in my room – these herbs are awesome for creating a sense of calm.
- Listening to a guided meditation or doing a bedtime yoga – some really good ones are the Headspace app, ABC Classic Flow available on the ABC Listen app (this one is great, as it also has classical music with a guided meditation), and the Smiling Mind app. Yoga with Adriene on YouTube has heaps of free yoga videos for bedtime.
- Journaling before bed is also great to relieve anxiety, as it allows you to process your emotions and worries.
- Also listening to relaxing music – there are many many Spotify playlists out there!
Tip: If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try focusing on your breath. I like to count how many times I inhale and exhale – particularly if my mind just won’t stop thinking about various things.
Tip #4: Schedule exercise early in the day
Exercise is awesome, particularly for feeling less anxious. But aim to exercise earlier in the day.
Late night intense exercise, such as interval training in the hour before bedtime, makes your body extremely alert and active, therefore making it difficult to fall asleep.
So, exercise earlier in the day so you will feel more tired at night.
Some great COVID-19 exercise solutions include:
- Yoga – check out Yoga with Adriene on YouTube for heaps of free yoga videos
- Walking/running around your local area – be safe by aiming to socially distance yourself from others
- At home dance classes on YouTube – say no more
- Vacuuming your house – surprisingly cardio inducing
Tip #5: Limit caffeine and try magnesium rich food
You’ve almost definitely heard this before – caffeine is made to keep us awake!
Yes, a good coffee is great to kickstart our brain in the morning, but drinking too much tea, coffee, hot chocolate (yes, chocolate does contain small amounts of caffeine), and energy drinks stimulate our brains, therefore making it extremely difficult to fall and stay asleep at night.
Try limiting coffee and other highly caffeinated drinks to 1-2 per day and before 3pm.
Also, some foods and drinks are excellent for helping you fall asleep. Oats, milk, nuts such as almonds, and chamomile tea contain minerals such as magnesium that can help promote melatonin production.
Chamomile tea in particular has great anti-anxiety properties, so I always like to sip a small cup before bed.
And that wraps up our 5 tips to developing and maintaining a health sleep schedule during COVID-19 – sleep well!
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Grace Mitchell hopes to one day stand in front of a Year 12 Modern History class teaching the history of the Soviet Union, or have an insightful discussion with a Year 10 English class on race relations in To Kill a Mockingbird. Either way, Grace is beginning her teaching journey studying a Bachelor of Education (Secondary: Humanities and Social Sciences)/Bachelor of Arts at Sydney University. Grace loves to learn new things, write short stories and opinion pieces, read, and play contemporary Australian compositions on the clarinet. When she is not learning – if that is possible – Grace loves to sit and watch the sun set.