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How to manage sleep problems during COVID-19

Are you tired of being tired from not getting enough sleep? Sadly, you’re in excellent company. 

According to a 2016 first-of-its-kind study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. The study examined sleep duration (7 or more hours per day) documentation for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Maybe you’re new to insomnia because of the coronavirus pandemic, like so many others. Or perhaps you’ve been tracking your sleep with fancy tech devices to improve your shuteye for quite some time. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of sleeplessness, it’s clear that sleep has become an American obsession. 

Yet, it can be difficult to wade through the many tools, techniques, supplements, guides, and so on to find simple information about how to experience a better night’s rest. So we’ve compiled a simple list of the best and worst things you can do for your sleep. 



Sure, a glass of red wine may make you sleepy. “But it’s not actually the best for slumber,” says Patricia Celan, a psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University in Canada. “When it comes to alcohol, keep in mind that just being unconscious is not sleep,” Celan says. “Passing out from alcohol doesn’t have the same effect on your brain as the equal amount of time in a deep, natural sleep. So minimize or eliminate any substances that can make you pass out so your brain will go through the natural stages of sleep to enter the most restoring phase,” she explains. 


“One of the major culprits of sleep disruption is the blue light that’s emitted by our electronic devices,” says Albert Lee, founder of Home Living Lab, a company centered on home improvement solutions. “The blue light acts as a stimulant, which makes it difficult for us to fall asleep. Either avoid looking at electronic devices before bed, or invest in a pair of filtering glasses, which block blue light.” 


“Eating a late dinner, snacking, and eating in the middle of the night affect your sleep significantly—especially if you’re noshing on fatty, spicy, and acidic food,” says Terry Cralle, a clinical sleep educator and professional sleep nurse. Eating before bed can cause issues like heartburn or GERD—and it disrupts bowel movement, so you may have to get up throughout the night to use the bathroom. 

Trying too hard 

“It sounds counterintuitive, but trying too hard will make it even more difficult to fall asleep,” says Annie Miller, a behavioral sleep medicine provider in Washington DC. “Sleep should be effortless,” she says. If you can’t fall asleep, get up and find something quiet to do, like reading. When you feel sleepy again, get back into bed. If it’s a difficult night, you may have to do this a few times.

“This works because worrying about sleep and laying in bed trying to sleep perpetuates insomnia,” Miller says. “When you take that out of the equation, it becomes easier to sleep.” 


Pink noise 

“While pink noise and white noise contain all frequencies that humans can hear, the intensity of pink noise decreases as the frequency increases,” said Michelle Dreup, director of behavioral sleep medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center. “So while white noise resembles the sound of TV static or a radio tuned to an unused frequency, pink noise sounds like steady rainfall or wind, and is often considered to be more soothing to kids and adults alike,” Drerup said. A study published by Northwestern researchers found that pink noise enhanced deep sleep for those with mild cognitive impairment. 

CBD oil, AKA cannabidiol

“This is a compound found in marijuana and hemp [that] has been used for thousands of years to help with sleep,” Cralle says. These compounds don’t make you high. Rather, they interact with the receptors in the brain that coordinate sleep and the sleep-wake cycle. They also interact with receptors responsible for anxiety and panic attacks, so it’s believed that it eases anxiety significantly. 


It’s fun to sleep in as much as the next #innerteen, but you won’t be doing yourself any favors if you do. We’ve all got an internal 24-hour clock, AKA our circadian rhythm, says Bill Fish, a certified sleep science coach and managing editor of

“If we want to get to sleep quickly on a nightly basis, we need to go to bed at approximately the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning,” Fish says.

Sticking to a routine will train your mind and body to know exactly when it’s time to rest and to wake. 

A sanctuary 

It’s tempting to work from your bed, but it’s not ideal if you want a good night’s sleep. Instead, turn your bedroom into a room that’s solely about sleep, Fish says. With the exception of sex and intimacy, of course. It’s important to discontinue the use of electronics at least 45 minutes before going to bed, and consider charging your phone in another room. Also, try keeping your room organized. “Our minds tend to race with clutter, so removing any unnecessary items helps to ease our minds,” he says. 


Melatonin supplements are used to treat sleep disorders, insomnia, and any disruptions in sleep or sleep schedule, Cralle says. Melatonin is a chemical that’s naturally produced by our bodies, but sometimes we need extra just to get our sleep back on track. The supplements regulate circadian rhythm, increase sleep prosperity, and improve sleep efficiency. 


Beyond melatonin, other supplements that work well for sleep are Magnesium Glycinate, Magnesium Orotate, and Tryptophan. 


According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, it’s especially important to manage sleep during COVID-19, because “good sleep helps to promote mental and physical wellbeing and helps maintain an effective immune system.” 

If you’re struggling with sleep during the coronavirus pandemic due to increased anxieties and stressors, be compassionate with yourself and remember: just like good relationships take work, achieving and maintaining good sleep habits also takes work.

As the researchers at Johns Hopkins state, “simple behavioral sleep strategies and relaxation techniques can help you sleep better by regularizing your circadian clock and by promoting positive emotions and feelings of calmness.”

If you are experiencing sleep problems or other health issues that are disrupting your overall wellbeing, our board-certified physicians can personalize a wellness program that is specific to your needs and includes premium supplements and prescriptions. They are available to speak with you online or in person. Schedule an appointment today.

Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff is a former magazine editor and newspaper reporter turned award-winning freelance writer specializing in lifestyle, health, business, shopping, parenting and travel writing. Her articles have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business, Women’s Health, Self, Woman’s Day, Men’s Health, Budget Travel, Health, Marie Claire, New York Newsday, Chicago Sun-Times, Better Homes and Gardens, Time Out New York Kids, and Every Day with Rachel Ray. Danielle is also the Chicago correspondent for Afar magazine, and she writes its weekly column about what to do in and around Chicago.