We currently find ourselves amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic. In these concerning times, it is not uncommon to have high levels of stress and a feeling of general uncertainty about what the future may hold. With this, the fragility of our health has been brought to the forefront of our consciousness.
Fortunately, some proactive measures can be taken, which may help you navigate through this period of uncertainty while boosting your overall health and wellness, one of which is getting quality sleep. This article explains why quality sleep is more important than ever right now with the current COVID-19 situation and offers tips on how you can improve your sleep habits, starting tonight. Getting quality, uninterrupted sleep means better health overall, and that’s something we can all get behind, pandemic or not.
What Is COVID-19?
The Coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19, is caused by the Sars-CoV-2, a strain of the coronavirus which caused the SARS outbreak in 2002. This newly identified disease is rapidly spreading around the world and has now resulted in a global pandemic. We still have a lot to learn about COVID-19, but for now, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports it originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The health organization believes that although the coronavirus disease is probably bat-borne, transmission to humans involved a still-unidentified intermediate animal host.
The symptoms associated with COVID-19 vary in strength, and it is even possible to be infected without showing signs of being sick. Coronavirus disease symptoms include fever, tiredness, dry cough, runny nose, aches and pains, sinus congestion, sore throat, and diarrhea. Often, the symptoms will start mild and can easily go undetected. According to the WHO, approximately 80% of infected people recover from the illness without needing any special medical treatment, and only about 1 in 6 people become seriously ill to the point that they experience breathing difficulties.
Due to the added strain on healthcare facilities around the world and the lack of severity associated with most cases of COVID-19, it is recommended by the WHO and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that you stay home and self-quarantine if you believe you have been infected but only display mild symptoms. Only if you are experiencing a fever, cough, and respiratory distress do the CDC and the WHO recommend seeking medical attention.
Preventive Measures: What Can You Do?
Considering its novelty, there are still a lot of questions to be answered about COVID-19, but for now, the best thing we can do is take preventive measures in the hopes of leveling off the infection rate. COVID-19 can be spread from person to person through droplets of saliva and mucus. If an infected person coughs or sneezes, their mucus spreads, and if you come in contact with it by either inhaling it into your lungs or it touches your mouth or nose, you will most likely become infected as well. This easy transmission of the coronavirus means we must do all we can to prevent further spreading the disease.
WHO and CDC Recommendations for Curbing the Spread of COVID-19
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand wash.
- Stay at home even if there’s no formal lockdown where you live; only go out for essential activities.
- Employ social distancing protocols by maintaining 3-6 feet of distance between you and other individuals in public.
- Stay at home if you are sick, even if you don’t require medical care.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue that is immediately thrown away.
- Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay up to date on current outbreak information in your area so you can accurately determine the level of risk you face.
Check the CDC and WHO websites to find the most up to date information on the COVID-19 pandemic so you can stay safe and informed. Both of these sites also offer valuable, in-depth information on the disease, and a little exploring should help to answer any questions you still have.
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The Importance of Health and Immunity Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic
Another way we can help protect ourselves and our overall health during the coronavirus disease pandemic is by focusing efforts at home on boosting our immunity before, or even during possible infection. For the most part, we know what kinds of activities are considered healthy and which are not, but now more than ever, it is important we actually follow through and commit to a healthier lifestyle, even if we revert to unhealthier ways once this all has passed.
The most immediate and effective ways to promote good health and immunity include but are not limited to a focus on healthy foods and nutrition, absorbing ample vitamin d, routine exercise, enhancing positive mental health, and getting consistent quality sleep.
How Nutrition Helps
Eating healthy foods provides your body with the vitamins and energy it needs to fight off sickness and function at its highest possible level. Most of us know that eating healthy can make us feel better, but it is not always easy to actually follow through, especially when we are stressed. If you can’t resist food options that are less than ideal for maintaining balanced nutrition right now, at the very least, you can incorporate vegetables and some other healthier options in an effort to counterbalance any unhealthy decisions you may make.
What Exercise Can Do
When it comes to exercise, most people’s main objective is to lose weight and/or build muscle, which is great and all, but this mode of thinking overlooks the greatest benefit provided by working out: improved overall health and well being. Regular exercise improves your overall physical, mental, and immune health even if this isn’t usually the reason we begrudgingly do it. Hence the reason doctors recommend elevating your heart rate for at least 20 minutes three times per week.
Consider Your Mental Health
Mental health is also key to maintaining a healthy life and a functioning immune system. When your mental health suffers, so does your general sense of health and wellbeing. Your mind and body usually work together in what appears to be a seamless fashion, but diverting energy and focus to mental health can redirect attention that would normally be spent on staying physically well. Our minds and bodies perform an impressive amount of tasks, but there is only so much it can do at one time, and often our physical health is the first thing to suffer when other needs are not being met.
Get Quality Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can produce negative side effects when it comes to your immune health, but for some reason, this often gets overlooked when people try to boost their health. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t feel like an active response, or maybe it just seems too easy with all of the free time most of us currently have? Either way, quality sleep is essential, and adults should ideally be aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, teenagers for 9-10 hours per night, and smaller children may need as many as 10+ hours of sleep per night.
Why do we need so much sleep? Studies have shown that you are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus if you do not get enough quality sleep on a consistent basis.
Additionally, studies also suggest it takes longer to recover from illness if you are suffering from a consistent lack of sleep. This is why quality sleep is more important than ever right now with the current COVID-19 situation.
How does sleep affect our immunity in such a drastic way? One way your body fights off sickness and infection is through a particular type of cytokines, which your immune system releases while you sleep. When faced with inflammation, stress, or infection, your body naturally ups the production of these cytokines to serve a protective function. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body will reduce production resulting in a prolonged healing period.
Your body also reduces the production of cells and antibodies when you suffer from sleep deprivation, both of which are essential when it comes to resisting and vanquishing sickness.
Basically, if you are tired, your body will not have the energy it needs to do things like fight off infection or focus on anything really, other than daily functioning. The longer the sleep deprivation persists, the more severe the side effects will become. Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to serious health consequences, such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
How to Improve Your Sleep Health
Given how important sleep can be for your overall health in these trying times, you may want to consider what things you can do personally to improve your sleep habits and your sleep health in general. We recommend incorporating one or more of the following methods into your daily routine in order to help boost your sleep health and your immunity as well.
Prolonged physical exertion, or exercise, will help diminish any stored energy you have built up (possibly due to a stay at home order) while also releasing tension. The tiredness you experience exercising will also help you fall asleep faster and for longer when the time comes.
Exercise can be considered a two for one when it comes to fighting off infection, and it can also improve mental health. Not only can working out help you achieve better, more consistent sleep at night, but it also improves your overall health along the way. For some, exercise can be a form of moving meditation that enhances focus and relieves stress, two things known for interfering with sleep.
Stress and anxiety are on the rise under our present circumstances, and often these can interfere with sleep quality by making it harder to fall asleep, and harder to stay asleep throughout the night. An overactive mind, particularly one that is worrying, can be enough of a distraction to keep you up at night. This is why we recommend meditation as a preemptive way to calm your racing mind. Meditating during the day can help you clear your mind before bed, allowing you to transition from wakefulness to sleep more seamlessly.
Certain supplements like CBD oil and valerian root are also known for their capability to improve overall sleep quality in many people. Avoiding stimulant supplements like caffeine and nicotine – which are known for disrupting sleep – can also help you fall asleep faster. As a rule of thumb, take your last cup of coffee no later than 2 in the afternoon.
Use Quality Mattress and Bedding
Another way to maximize your time in bed and increase the quality of sleep you get is by designing your sleep environment to maximize comfort. When your mattress and bedding provide you with an elevated level of comfort, you will sleep longer and better. For example, if you overheat in bed or your mattress is too hot, it can disrupt your sleep length and quality. Or, if your mattress is sagging or unsupportive, it can compromise your spinal alignment. This can lead to general discomfort while you sleep, and when you wake up in the morning.
Avoiding Screen Time Before Bed
The harsh light emitted by electronic screens can also stimulate your brain and send it signals to stay alert and awake. In order to maximize your sleep time and quality, we recommend turning off electronic screens approximately two hours before you plan on going to bed. This way, you can naturally start to unwind and become sleepy. We know it’s not always easy to tear yourself away from your phone, television, or computer but try another bedtime activity like reading a book or doing some self-care. Limiting screen time will pay off in the long run. This is also a common recommendation for people who have insomnia.
Take Care of Yourself!
Now that we know why quality sleep is more important than ever right now with the current COVID-19 situation, it’s up to you to start taking preventive measures. Most of us really enjoy sleeping, but often find we don’t always get as much of it as we might like.
However, with all of the social distancing precautions and stay at home orders in place as a result of COVID-19, we find ourselves with a bit more time for sleep than normal. Take advantage! Prioritizing sleep now could actually help you fight off the coronavirus before it gets serious and help you recover more quickly if you, unfortunately, become ill.