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COVID and Sleep: Better Slumber During the Pandemic May Help Protect Your Health

One of the best things you can do if you do get sick with COVID-19 or any virus is to get plenty to sleep. Your body needs sleep to fight the infection if you are ill and help prevent the infection if you are not.

If you do not get enough sleep, it lowers your immune system. When you sleep, your immune system releases cytokines. Some cytokines play a role in how your immune system functions. According to research in the peer-reviewed journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, lack of sleep may alter cytokines and affect the immune system response.

The exact amount of sleep a person needs to boost their immune system may vary. Most adults need seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. Teens and school-age children need about 10 hours.

Start by making sleep a priority in your schedule. This means budgeting for the hours you need so that work or social activities don’t trade off with sleep. While cutting sleep short may be tempting in the moment, it doesn’t pay off because sleep is essential to being at your best both mentally and physically.

Since getting good sleep is so vital to speed up recovery from COVID-19 or any infection, there are things you can do to promote quality sleep. Consider the following tips:

  • Make sleep a priority, just as you would for physical activity and healthy eating.

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, especially during the pandemic, when daily routines have been upended.

  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual such as meditating, taking a bath, listening to soothing music, or reading a book. But avoid tablets or computers that lack a blue-light filter, as using these items before bedtime can interfere with sleep.

  • Consider whether reducing caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed are useful for you as they can interrupt sleep.

  • Spend some time outside every day (when possible), particularly getting early morning light. Stay physically active but continue to practice social distancing during the pandemic.

  • If you’re tired, take a nap but avoid long naps and avoid taking them later in the day because that can hinder your nighttime sleep.

  • If you’re in bed and can’t fall sleep, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy.

  • If you experience frequent sleep loss or excessive daytime sleepiness, consider discussing your symptoms with a physician.

If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms such as significant sleepiness during the day, chronic snoring, leg cramps or tingling, difficulty breathing during sleep, chronic insomnia, or another symptom that is preventing you from sleeping well, you should consult your primary care doctor or find a sleep professional to determine the underlying cause.

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