Spirituality Can Tackle Post-COVID Sleep Problems
Sleep is the best meditation. – Dalai Lama
Isolation and quarantine at home during the COVID-19 pandemic caused various mental issues and barring these the daily news reported death caused stress, especially in persons suffering from COVID-19. Threatening information with social isolation caused severe mental pressure. Sanderson WC stated in his research that, indeed, among the natural and non–natural disasters that can occur to humans, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe psychological distress due to a large number of individuals affected globally by the contagious and deadly nature of the virus. This unusual traumatic pandemic has affected sleep and caused various sleep problems.
Zainab Alimoradi et al stated that Patients with COVID-19 infection had the highest prevalence of sleep problems and healthcare professionals had the second-highest prevalence of sleep problems. Moderate associations between sleep problems and psychological distress (including depression and anxiety) were found.
Dr. Rachel Manber, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science and Director of Stanford Sleep Health and Insomnia Program (SHIP), says in her, COVID-19 Q&A series that two main contributors to potential worsening of sleep are changes in stress level and changes in sleep behaviors. In general, worries and anxieties tend to have a negative impact on sleep.
Insomnia and circadian rhythm disorder are common in the post-COVID-19 pandemic period. It is found that there is psychological distress during and post COVID-19 pandemic leading to anxiety and depression which lead to sleep problems. The good things are that COVID has taught us spirituality in various ways, first, there is a supreme force which you must believe and HE is most powerful and most merciful. You are not at all powerful or resourceful, a tiny virus has disrupted billions of lives and taken away lacs in a short span of time and you could not do anything. COVID has directed us to do spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, and relaxation to attain healthy life, both mental and physical health. You can achieve a lot with a spiritual bend of mind.
Optimum hours of sleep
Sally Brown, Lifestyle editor of the Sunday Times says in her book, “Live Longer” that The ideal amount is between six and eight hours. Get less than this and you start to build up a sleep debt and that’s bad news for living longer. One study of over 70,000 nurses found that women who got five hours of sleep or less nightly over a decade had a 39% greater risk of heart attack than those who managed eight hours. It has also been found that building up a sleep debt over a matter of days can impair metabolism and disrupt hormone levels, preventing the body from processing glucose in the blood. Optimum hours of sleep are between 6 to 8 hours a day and are beneficial to health but more than 8 hours is bad for health, as the proverb by Napoleon Bonaparte goes, ‘Six hours for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool.
Bad health effects of sleep disturbances
The following sicknesses can develop if you don’t get sound and long sleep for a few months:
- Memory problems: Sleep helps in keeping you stress-free and makes memory sharp.
- Recurrent infections due to depressed immune system: It is confirmed by various high-level studies that sleep strengthens the immune system and thus prevents infections and maybe even certain cancers. Regular and sound sleep reduces inflammation in the body and thus prevents certain chronic diseases and helps to live long. C-Reactive protein is a marker for inflammation and the blood level of C-reactive, protein is directly proportional to the risk of certain diseases and aging. Regular sound sleep reduces the level of this protein and also the risk of these diseases. During sleep metabolic rate of the body reduces and oxidative stress also reduces leading to repair and protection of our brain and body.
- Daytime sleepiness
- Trouble in concentrating: Lack of sleep makes you irritable, lethargic, and tired. You cannot concentrate on difficult and complex situations.
- Heartburn, acidity, and gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Heart disease
- Early death
Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide writes that disturbances in sleep are a common problem in older people sleep changes can include nighttime awakenings, a decrease in deep restful sleep, and increased napping during the day. For many older people, initiating a regular bedtime and waking schedule is the first step towards getting a good night’s sleep. Other tips include exercising early in the day, keeping naps to a minimum, avoiding spicy foods and caffeine in the evening, keeping your bedroom temperature on the cool side, and serving the bedroom only for sleep or sex.
How do you sleep well?
- Relax before going to bed – Sip a hot milky drink, or listen to soothing music.
- Avoid stimulants – Cut out tea, coffee, or cola drinks a few hours before retiring. Also avoid spicy food or a heavy meal. Coffee stimulates wakefulness centre in the brain.
- Make sure your room is quiet – Is your bed comfortable? Leave a window open for fresh air.
- Keep a regular routine – go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday whether you are tired or not. Resist catnapping during the day.
- Save your bed for sleep – Do not eat, watch TV, or discuss troublesome issues in bed.
- Take moderate exercise – include some exercise in your day, such as swimming or walking.
- Don’t drink too much to avoid having to get up and use the bathroom during the night.
- Play distracting mental games – Distract yourself by remembering the names of football teams in the league, people at school, or by counting prime numbers.
- Do something non-stimulating – If you have not fallen asleep after half an hour, get up go to another room, and do something undemanding such as reading or ironing 10-15 minutes.
- Leave your problems behind – Before you go to bed, write down your worries on a piece of paper and leave them behind in another room.
- Carry out a progressive muscle-relaxation exercise – As you lie in bed, tighten up muscle groups in the body and slowly relax them.
- Have a warm water bath before going to bed – If you have sleep disturbance you must develop a habit of taking a warm water bath about a half-hour before. First you fill your bathing tub with lukewarm water then soak yourself in it for few minutes and then apply soap and take bath. While you are taking warm water bath leave the air conditioner of your room on so that your room is cool which further helps in bringing sleep sooner. Whenever body temperature drops it stimulates sleep centre in the brain and brings drowsiness. Warm water bath relaxes muscles in body which again leads to drowsiness. So, when you finish the warm water bath and come to bedroom, relaxation of body muscles happens and drop in body temperature stimulates sleep center and makes you drowsy and you sleep well and sound.
Meditation calms body and mind and brings natural sleep. It is normal for brain to get various thoughts at bedtime when you are not physically in action. Meditation does not allow these thoughts to come up at bedtime and causes relaxation of mind and body leading to good sleep. More the meditation more quick and sound sleeps. Mind fitness meditation in particular, appears to improve sleep quality and reduce daytime disturbance in people with chronic insomnia and orders adults. Following three spiritual practices are helpful in bringing good and sound sleep in post covid-19 sleep disturbances.
- Deep abdominal breathing
The process of meditation by focusing on different parts of body is called body scan meditation. This promotes relaxation and encourages sleeps.
Researchers have proved that regular meditation can improve sleep quality for those without existing sleep problems. Long term use of meditation improves the onset and quality of sleep like the effect of sleep medications. In some persons suffering with insomnia the thought of going to bed generates anxiety and stress, meditation in such person calms down the nervous and endocrine systems reduce cortisol (stress hormone) level and also reduces inflammation. Daily practice of meditation improves night sleep by producing calming effect on body and mind.
Carry home message: Thinks less, relax well and sleep like a log.
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