#COVID19Chronicles-33: May 17, 2020: A good night’s sleep? Yes, please!

During the many weeks of COVID19 restrictions, many people are suffering from spates of unsettled sleep and fewer hours of sleep than they want and need. I can’t say how many people feel stressed and are feeling that dealing with the pandemic is why they are not sleeping well and getting more stressed about that—a vicious circle. Doctors advise to tackle the issues early on, before they have become a pattern after a few months.

Well, I go to bed around 9pm, anyway and my family know I go to bed ‘early’. I’m also usually first to rise and am happy to be triggered by sunlight. That broad picture hasn’t changed with the new routines of life under lock downs, or restricted access of social distancing. 

Generally, I’ve no problem getting to sleep, but I don’t sleep much over 4 hours at first, but it’s usually a good, deep sleep; if I wake, say, at 1am, I may decide to write and then go back to sleep, say at 2, till about 5, when day light appears. I may also just go to the bathroom and try to get some more sleep; it depends if I feel some tiredness, still.

I usually take a hot drink, like Milo, a little before I go to sleep. I don’t eat late. I often put on some soothing music as I go to bed, and then doze.

I spend a lot of time thinking about some complicated issues. Personally, I sleep worse when my mind has lots of unresolved issues, so I often wake early to dislodge ideas. I’m happy writing in the wee hours of the morning because it’s free of distractions and full of calm, as the dawn approaches. So, I don’t freak out if I wake to go to the bathroom but find I am wide awake; I’ll write. I will also head for a few more hours if I’m done by say 2.30am. However, what I have tried the past week is to try to think about fewer issues—just deciding not to bother with things I know to be worthy of thinking about, and also not to dispute too many things with people who are stuck in a way of thinking that I believe is wrong or misguided. It’s not giving up on ideas, but accepting that the meeting of minds is not likely to happen. I can spend more time with things I enjoy. I have also tried writing during the daytime and convincing myself that I have fulfilled my personal commitment—currently, ‘journaling’ about COVID19 issues daily. If I’m content, I schedule the blog post to be published the next day, early. Otherwise, I will take a last look when I wake and then  publish. So far, it seems to have given me a couple more hours of sleep, so I’ve been waking at about 3.30 instead of 1/1.30. That way, I go to bed with a settled mind.

I’m less concerned about short duration sleep at nights as I know that in Jamaica we benefit from days with almost identical lengths, with the sun rising between 5.15 and 6.30 most of the year, and setting about 12 hours later. Not for us those longer summer days and shorter winter ones, with long evenings in the dark.

If I feel that my sleep has been shorter than wanted or needed, I have no problem taking naps, and power naps of say 15-30 minutes are really sweet.

Most people in the household seem to be sleeping well. They finish their days off now with a movie/TV session and head to bed at around 10pm, after dinner at around 6pm, after a little sitting out in the cool of the setting sun, after a day of reading, relaxing, working, studying, or whatever. No one surfaces before 7am, so they all seem to be getting in some good hours or rest. My teenager is the only one who seems to be able to sleep to nearly noon on the weekends, though I suspect she may not be going to sleep until say 2am.

My day always starts with a bowl of fruit and a drink of water. I then try to get in exercise every day, starting from when I get up with some yoga and stretches. I have breakfast with protein after about an hour, then I do some golf practice and gardening (looking around the yard) and trying to move about all day. My wife takes some walks outside in the yard. My daughter works out a bit after most of her school days; yesterday, though, she did a 2-hour work out. The grands take little tours around the deck. We know that a body that feels good usually sleeps well.

None of us allows ourselves to get exhausted, so even if sleep is shortened, it’s not adding to an overall feeling of tiredness.

Many friends are commenting about much shorter sleep at nights and unable to recover the lost hours. I’m not sure if they can find some easy solutions through changing diet or routines. Some resort to sleeping aids—medicine or alcohol (which I think isn’t bad, in the form of something like a little brandy in a large glass of water), or some ‘calming’ tea. Those who say they feel stressed at least recognize that and try to work against it. With more people working or having to stay at home much more than usual and not commuting as much, I think they would do well to exploit the fact that resting places are right at hand. I’m aggressive in shaping boundaries and think that these are times when people should try to redefine their boundaries: working (or other activity) 6-8 hours straight is not ideal, so try to break it into smaller chunks, and put rest or change into the regular mix.


Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)