Rest and Recharge
As the social distancing continues throughout our area, people are finding it difficult to let go of tension, anxiety and stress. It could be that, as a student your place of employment is closed; as a faculty member you’re trying to figure out how to safely and effectively conduct classes, maintaining the quality and standard your students deserve; as an administrator or director, you may be working out how to safely have your team back on campus and in their offices – especially if all of you work in a small area. There is plenty to keep you up at night and keep you from feeling refreshed or rested during the day. How you successfully bring your brain and body down will differ from person to person, “You've just got to gradually bring the brain and the body down, sort of from that altitude of wakefulness onto the hard, safe landing pad of sleep at night,” says Matthew Walker, a sleep researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and the author of Why We Sleep.”
These suggestions have been curated from a variety of sources and suggestions. Pick a few that make sense to you, and try to “Rest and Recharge” as you prepare for a new normal campus fall semester.
Instead of counting sheep to try to fall asleep or to just relax, try deep breathing while you count each breath backward from 100. The deep breathing, as those who meditate will tell you, helps relax your body and mind. Counting backward helps relax your brain, which is why doctors have you do it while going under anesthesia.
Allison Harvey at UC Berkley found that mental imagery is conducive to sleep, “Like a hike in the woods or if it's a walk down on a beach that you do on vacation." Mentally navigating that walk, Walker says, “tended to hasten the speed of the onset of sleep.”
Relaxation and Meditation Apps
These apps, like the Calm app, can train you to meditate and clear away regrets about the past and worries about the future so you can learn to be in the moment. They also remind you to take daily “check-in” breaks to monitor your mood and to meditate quietly.
“Melatonin can help you with the timing of your sleep, especially under conditions of jet lag,” Walker says. However, “when you're stable in your typical time zone, the impact of melatonin on the quantity of your sleep and the quality of your sleep has been debatable.”
While melatonin doesn't appear to be habit-forming, Walker says many people take too high of a dose. And if you take too much, there's some evidence that this can impact how much melatonin your body produces naturally. Also, keep in mind that most melatonin is marketed as a supplement, so it's not regulated like prescription drugs are.
Sedation and Sleep are not the Same Thing
Sleep is an active psychological state. “We have deep sleep during the first half of the night, which is when we make our growth hormone. We have dream sleep, or REM sleep, during the second half of the night,” says Chris Winter, a neurologist and sleep researcher in Charlottesville, Virginia. “A lot of medications prevent sleep from doing those things.”
Over-the-counter sleep medicines may knock you out, but they won't result in effective sleep. Some prescription medications interfere with sleep, so check with your doctor on those.
Pass Along Good Sleep Hygiene
For many parents, getting your children to sleep is an obstacle to your own shut-eye. It turns out that your children' sleep habits have a lot to do with your own habits. There's a whole checklist of good sleep hygiene — everything from going to bed at the same time each night to creating a calm environment to keeping phones and devices out of the bedroom. The earlier you teach these to your children, the better.
If young children do wake you in the wee hours, don't react in a way that increases their stress — but do find strategies that make it no fun to be up. For example, Winter says he would, in a calm and kind manner, enlist his son to help him clean the garage for a few minutes.
Keep your bedroom cool
Your core body temperature needs to drop by about 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit to initiate good sleep and then maintain deep sleep. Walker suggests keeping your bedroom around 65 degrees Fahrenheit and wearing socks, which can draw the heat out of your body's core.
Do What Works for You
If you have a sleep ritual that's working for you, whether it's lavender oil or listening to music, Walker says keep doing it.
“I'm not going to suggest it's scientific, necessarily. But I think the placebo effect, for which now there is a wonderful science, actually tells us something profound,” says Walker. “That your brain can actually instigate real biological change just through the act of psychological thought.”
If you have 2-5 Minutes: Read the comics or watch a YouTube video. Read a poem. Listen to a favorite song. Relax with a cup of caffeine free tea. Browse through a catalog or art gallery online. Play with a toy such as a yo-yo, jacks, paddle ball, or kaleidoscope. Take a walk around the building. Work on a crossword or sudoku puzzle. Use the Calm app to breathe deeply or meditate for five minutes.
If you have 5-30 Minutes: Read an article in a favorite magazine. Take a bag lunch and a good book to a nearby outdoor spot. Start a new hobby or craft and keep a project with you. Whittling, needlework, coloring, puzzles, juggling, crossword or sudoku puzzles are a few. Plan a surprise for someone you love or appreciate (a phone call or a note in a pocket).
If you have more then 30-Minutes: Get out old photo albums and share memories with your children, significant other, grandchildren, or by yourself. Take a long walk and watch the sunset. Trade rubs for sore feet, backs, or necks with your house members. Have a cookie-baking evening and make several kinds of cookies to freeze for later; look for recipes that don't use lots of butter and cut the sugar quantity in half. Get out some old games and play one; Monopoly, cards, Scrabble, Checkers, Exploding Kittens, or check out the ones on this list (https://www.bestproducts.com/parenting/kids/g985/best-family-board-games/). Enjoy a good book with a cup of hot tea and soft music. Lock yourself in the bathroom with a good book and take a long bubble bath. Call, video chat, or write someone you've been out of touch with. Start a small garden and work on it during the evenings or early morning. Get out old albums and listen to music from years gone by; have a family dance in your living room. Keep a journal of delightful moments from a growing child, favorite recipes, people you meet, or any other format you choose. Read old cookbooks and laugh at the recipes. Go for a ride in the country or through different parts of the city. Visit a virtual museum or art gallery exhibit. Plan a bicycle trip. Pack a lunch and have a picnic in the park.
Adapted from Allison Aubrey, June 8, 2020, NPR