Changes in daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted people’s sleep routines, experts say. Dr. Carolyn Ievers-Landis, a clinical pediatric psychologist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, said irregular sleep schedules can negatively affect health.
“People are having more delayed sleep,” she said. “Most people are able to sleep in a little bit later, and naturally, many people’s sleep is now later, which means they’re staying up later also.”
Landis co-authored a paper about ways to improve sleep habits during this time. She said school closures and remote work have caused more sedentary lifestyles – and that’s not ideal for getting shut-eye.
“Some people are noticing that their sleep is very fragmented, they have longer wake ups, it’s harder to fall asleep because they really haven’t built up the need for sleep,” she said.
These irregular sleep patterns are harmful to people’s attention, memory and diet, she said.
She suggests getting outside more and engaging in physical activity to kick-start the hormones necessary to help you have a good night’s sleep. She said this may be particularly challenging for older adults who have been encouraged to stay home to help protect them from contracting the coronavirus.
“This is so important for people – older people and people with older family members – to figure out how they can go for walks or get some safe virtual exercise,” Ievers-Landis said.
Another issue is that some of her teenage patients report sleeping in late or taking naps during the day due to boredom.
“The problem is, if you get too far off, and your sleep does not align with the light and dark cycle of where you are, it can have health effects,” she said.
She also recommends parents pay attention to the shows and media their children are consuming and focus on engaging in fun, positive activities during the day to reduce anxiety.
“In terms of just the stress of the time, there are some children that [are] experiencing more bad dreams from this,” she said.
She said everyone regardless of their age should stick to a regular wake and sleep schedule every day.
The article was published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioral Sleep Medicine.