For some, returning to our pre-covid routines will be harder than anticipated. Over a year into the pandemic, people have grown accustomed to the daily routines they’ve established. While many of us yearned for the end of the pandemic, some are anxious about returning to our pre-COVID lifestyle. The mind races. Flex schedules, social gatherings, small-talk, parties, kid’s activities, commuting, full business attire – all once normal parts of our lives, these daily and weekly activities will likely instill a shift in our routines, and potentially even our sleep-wake patterns. In this article, we’ll explore how COVID-19 changed our sleep-wake schedules and how we can prepare to ease into our new routines to support healthy sleep-wake patterns.
How does the body handle schedule changes?
Studies have shown that people generally slept longer, later, and poorer during COVID-19, particularly during lockdown. There was also a delay in chronotype: our tendency to sleep at a particular time during COVID-19 shifted. We preferred to fall asleep and wake up later. Researchers speculate that this shift was associated with changes in lifestyle and weaker social cues, also known as Zeitgebers. For example, work, school, and social schedules became more flexible and delayed – and for some, even absent. There may have also been a reduction in the amount of light we were exposed to in the morning hours. Proper exposure to sufficient light in the morning hours, and a reduction to bright light in the evening, are critical for supporting sleep-wake cycles. Without having to wake up early to commute to work, people may have spent less time outdoors in the morning hours and more time in front of a bright computer screen in the evening. Lower exposure to light in the morning and higher exposure in the evening may have caused a drift from our “typical” circadian rhythm. As our schedule and lifestyle change following our return to pre-COVID routines, we’ll likely see another shift in our sleep-wake patterns. As of the writing of this article (June 10), scientists have yet to publish research on the effects of returning to our pre-COVID on sleep-wake routines. What is known, however, is that regularity in sleep patterns with consistent bedtimes and wake-up times can help ease our bodies into a new routine.
Why consistency matters for sleep
Here at SleepScore Labs, we often preach about the importance of sleep consistency as an essential component to healthy sleep-wake behaviors. Keeping a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – even on weekends – maintains the circadian rhythm and can help you to fall asleep easier and wake up feeling refreshed. Studies have shown that regularity in sleep patterns is associated with favorable health outcomes. Humans are creatures of habit and our body’s crave consistency and predictability through repeated behaviors and responses. With time, these repeated behaviors – particularly sleep – are reinforced by consistent repetition and eventually become automatic. Think about harnessing the power of sleep consistency as you begin to ease back into your pre-COVID routine!
How can I help my body ease into a new routine?
We recently wrote an article on 8 Tips To Fix & Reset Your Sleep Schedule, so be sure to check it out for evidenced-backed tips to retrain your internal clock. If you’re short on time, here’s an abbreviated list to support you on your return to pre-COVID routines and a healthy sleep-wake schedule.
- Keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up time. Your body adores consistency, so stick to a sleep schedule – even on weekends!
- Let there be light! Daylight helps regulate the circadian rhythm. Try stepping outside into natural sunlight in the morning for at least 15-30 minutes.
- …but not after sunset. Limit your exposure to bright lights in the 3-4 hours before bedtime.
- Regularly exercise. Exercise daily at the same time (preferably in the morning), but any strenuous exercise should take place no later than 3 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid naps. Naps can be great for a quick pick-me-up, but napping during the day can make it more difficult to sleep later.
SleepScore Labs Solutions
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