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Q: Since the coronavirus pandemic started, I’m having trouble sleeping. What can I do?

Please know, you are not alone.

Many who never struggled with insomnia before are surprisingly undergoing disruptions in their nightly rest. We live in a place filled with aloha and sunshine but are now stuck indoors. We are restless and impatient. Many on Maui agonize with thoughts of exposure to illness, financial hardship, relatives we love but cannot visit and general turmoil in the nation. Even as we expect decreased restrictions, we still linger in limbo. These constant emotional skirmishes cause anxiety. And guess what? Researchers have found anxiety can disrupt your sleep and sleep problems cause anxiety. Meaning, sleep is the answer and the problem. And just like anxiety, sleep problems can impact how you function emotionally, mentally, and physically. It’s worth it to help yourself get a better night’s sleep. Sleep can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, help you think better, improve your mood, and reduce irritability. All of which can help improve family relationships when you’re in close quarters. Getting enough sleep also helps strengthen your immune system, which is important when you’re trying to stay healthy.

Some steps that can help you sleep better include:

• Establish a consistent routine- wake up and go to sleep at approximately the same time each day
• Spend time outside in the natural light during the day.
• Have a bed time routine where you wind down and relax
• Avoid your phone and screen time for about an hour before bed.
• Use your bed only for sleep and sex/intimacy
• Avoid working on your computer, watching TV, or doing other activities in your bedroom.
• Get some exercise and physical activity during the day.
• Avoid too much alcohol or caffeine, especially late in the day.

Finally, if your insomnia is severe or getting worse, call your doctor. And if you’re dealing with serious stress or anxiety, such as worries about health, family, or money, consider talking with a counselor to get help.

While it’s common for people to have insomnia during a stressful time, help is available. By making a few lifestyle changes, it’s possible to improve your sleep — and your health.

Benjamin A. Thompson, MD

Psychiatry, Behavioral Health

Maui Memorial Medical Center
221 Mahalani Street
Wailuku, HI 96793