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Sleep tips during isolation: Supporting the body clock

Filed in
  • COVID-19
  • stress
  • Circadian rhythms

Lynn Celmer  |  Apr 01, 2020
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BodyClock

This information is intended for people who have to stay indoors for an extended period of time. If you are sleep deprived because of lack of opportunity to sleep (e.g., frontline health professionals, support workers, caregivers), please prioritize sleep and rest as much as you are able to.

Support our body clock and daily rhythms

Sleep is controlled by biological, social, and environmental time-keepers. These include the light we are exposed to, time-of-the-day when we eat our meals, exercise, interact with others, and many more. When we stay indoors for a long period of time, we lose many of these cues. This can be challenging for a good night’s sleep and regular daily routines. Here are some strategies to support our daily rhythms:

  • Get up around the same time every day. Your get-up time is like an anchor to your day and night. Keeping a consistent get-up time will help other parts of your day fall into a regular routine and help you sleep better the next night.
  • Get bright light into your eyes within a few minutes of getting up and seek light during the day. Our brain's body clock (or circadian pacemaker) is tuned by daily light. Morning bright light, when received by our brain at around the same time every day, is a powerful time signal of our body clock. Bright light has the added benefit of promoting alertness, which is particularly important if you find it difficult to get going in the morning. Try opening curtains and let in direct sunlight; if you don't have access to natural light, turn on bright indoor lights.
  • Make your first social interaction of the day at the same time each morning. When you are in isolation, interacting with others can be difficult. Try to have a phone or video call with friends or family at about the same time each morning. Even a quick “hello” and check-in is useful. The other person will probably appreciate the human contact too!
  • Eat meals around the same time each day, especially breakfast. Eating serves as a time-keeper and helps tune our body clock. Eating meals at the same time of the day supports a healthy biological clock, which is important for sleep.
  • Exercise around the same time each day and avoid being sedentary for long stretches of time. Exercise indoors can be challenging. Many video streaming sites have nice at-home workouts you can follow.
  • Keep daytime and night-time different and separate. Our body clock benefits from keeping day and night clearly distinguished. During daytime, keep living space full of light, and keep active. For instance, organizing, cooking, cleaning, and indoor exercises. In the evening, keep lights dim, and do quieter activities such as watching TV, reading.
  • Keep lights dim and block blue light on electronic devices 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. A dark environment can help your body naturally produce melatonin and prepare your body for sleep. Many devices have settings that can be adjusted to reduce blue light, use these settings or reduce screen brightness while winding down before bed.

This article was written by Drs Bei Bei, Shantha Rajaratnam, and Sean Drummond from Monash University Healthy Sleep Clinic, Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, Monash University, Australia, and Dr Rachel Manber from Sleep Health and Insomnia Program, Stanford University, USA. You may share this information freely with acknowledgement of the source. Contribution to this via Github is welcome. For questions and comments, please contact bei.bei@monash.edu.


2 Comments

  1. 1 peter 17 Jun
    i have aproblem for sleeping.
  2. 2 Sandra Wilson 10 Apr
    Thank you for your advice! Probably because lately I stopped following the schedule I had before self-isolation, I had trouble sleeping. 

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